16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women – Join the global call!

By: Elena Georgalla (FRIDA Intern)

16 is a remarkable number. It often marks some kind of passage or the breakdown of previous barriers: the coming of age and the transition to adulthood; driving license; consent; voting; graduation;  legal obligations. 16 is also a number of action. Every year, from November 25- International Day Against Violence Against Women- to December 10- International Human Rights Day, thousands of activists around the globe merge their voices in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

The campaign, established in 1991 at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute, offers an opportunity to renew our pledge to free women and girls from the global pandemic of violence. Whether it happens privately, behind closed doors, or employed publicly as a strategy of intimidation, in your building or on distant shores, gender-based violence affects women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo as it does in the United States. It knows no borders and  no ethnic, racial, socio-economic, and religious lines. UN Women reports that 15 to 76 percent of women and girls of all ages, experience some form of sexual or physical violence in their lifetime. Gender-based violence can be physical, sexual and psychological and can include female infanticide; child sexual abuse; sex trafficking and forced labour; sexual coercion and abuse; neglect; domestic violence; coercion; economic deprivation; and elder abuse. Violence occurs in times of peace and ceasefire, and during war and social upheaval- both are two sides to a single coin. In recognition of this, the global theme of the 16 Days campaign this year is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women! 2012 marks the third year of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership ‘s advocacy on the intersections of gender-based violence and militarism.

During the 16-day period, thousands of organisations and activists mobilise to send a formidable message for the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls globally. Attention is also drawn to the abolition of harmful traditional practices, such as child and forced marriage; ‘honour’ killings; female genital mutilation; and gender-biased sex selection. Opportunities for action are countless, especially because the 16 Days of Activism campaign encompasses other significant dates as well, including November 29 – International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1 – World AIDS Day; and December 6 which marks the anniversary of the Montreal massacre.

Taking immediate action matters to everyone, men and women. Initiatives taken vary from local campaigns to raise awareness to demonstrations and lobbying policy-makers. The latter is particularly important. Even though notable progress is being reported globally, it is vital to secure the appropriate legislation to criminalise such acts and prevent them from happening in the future. But even more crucial is to educate. Learning is certainly not exclusive to younger generations. However, FRIDA would like to highlight the prominence of young feminist activism around the world and the power of young women to take the future in their hands. Every action matters. For inspiration as to how you can join thousands in the global call for ending gender-based violence, check out the following incredible actions taken by young feminists around the world and ways to join them. If you are using social media, keep up with actions around the world (#16Days).

  • In commemoration of World Aids Day, the AWID Young Feminist Wire draws attention to young women’s initiatives on combating HIV/AIDS and to the concrete ways women around the world are contributing to advancing women’s rights and social justice for those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
  • One of the most imaginative and engaging collaborative campaigns undertaken this year is Take Back The Tech!, calling out to everyone – especially women and girls – to take control of technology to end violence against women. Over the 16-day period, Take Back The Tech! invites you to take one action per day. Each daily action explores a different issue of violence against women and its interconnection with communication rights, and approaches different communication platforms in creative and tactical ways.
  • OpenDemocracy 50:50 has launched an alternative coverage of the 16 Days international campaign, bringing you an array of articles, testimonies, poetry and short stories, exploring the continuum of violence against women globally.
  • Women Win, an NGO dedicated to equipping young girls to exercise their rights through sport, has prepared a wonderful video to raise awareness about violence against women and girls in conflict and post-conflict regions and how sport can be a powerful means of coping with the physical and emotional trauma.
  • The Centre for Women’s Global Leadership has launched a series of actions, including a 16 Days Campaign blog, featuring activists from around the world.
  • On the occasion of November 29th, Women Human Rights Defenders Day, the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition released a statement, standing in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of women activists around the world who courageously uphold women’s human rights, the rights of communities, and of the environment.
  •  Similarly, the JASS (Just Associates) joined on International Women Human Rights Defenders Day by paying a tribute to the women across the world fighting for justice and a better life in the face of violence and war, especially recognising the work of women activists in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gaza and Egypt.
  • Say NO – UNiTe campaign supported by the United Nations and UN Women has developed an elaborate guide on ways to take action for individuals, students. governments, civil society and corporations.

Ever action counts. Last day of the campaign is December 10th, International Human Rights Day. So get inspired and make sure you keep up with FRIDA grantee partners to see what other young feminist around the world are doing to make a change.