A UN campaign called the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence has a goal to spread awareness as they seek to make a change in the world and make things right. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) has gradually increased over the years as it escalates around the world. This call for action hopes to change that.
What is Gender-based Violence (GBV)?
Gender-based violence is violence that is directed to an individual’s gender identity. This may include “physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse, threats, coercion, and economic or education deprivation” (Women for Women International.org).
What is the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence?
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence is an international campaign that takes place every year starting from the 25th of November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to 10th of December (International Human Rights Day). This campaign originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and ever since then, the event has been conducted every year by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWLG). “Under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-general’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence Against Women campaign (UNiTE Campaign)” (UN Women.org). From the year of their launch in 2008, they continue to strive over the years for their goal as they call youths, governments, organizations, the media, private sectors, and the entire UN community to join forces.
Background History about the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence:
Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa Mirabal are three sisters who are political activists who frequently spoke up about the hardships when in rule by Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. He was known for his brutal and ruthless ways of leading by tolerating no free speech and no free press. On 25 November 1960, the three sisters were killed “and dumped at the bottom of the cliff by Turjillo’s secret police” (International Women’s Development Agency.org). The Mirabal sisters were symbolized as feminist resistance and the 25th of November is known as the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women in Latin America since 1980 (later in 1999, this declared holiday was noticed by the UN). In June 1991, CWLG declared a new campaign called what we now know as the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence. Ever since then, every year people around the world would raise awareness about “discriminatory attitudes and call for improved laws and services to end violence against women for good” (International Women’s Development Agency.org).
Why is it important?
For over centuries, VAWG has been so normalized in our society until now. Growing up, many young girls around the world were controlled and judged based on the eyes of men and society itself. The purpose for this activism is to give the spotlight or the attention to people that have to go through any type of violence and also to educate others. Forms of violence consist of sexual harassment, abuse, exploitation, drug-fascilitated assault, and more. It creates a public notice to everyone in the world and to help victims that have been silenced and have not been given justice, a chance to share their story.
In March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak, a global pandemic. Due to this pandemic, people were told to stay home and quarantine themselves to avoid gatherings of big groups. Although for some, it may seem lockdown isn’t as bad. However, according to the alarming rise of sexual violence across the globe says otherwise. There are key risk factors for VAWG which includes “food shortages, unemployment, economic insecurity, school closures, massive migration flows, and the threat of civil unrest” (UN Women.org). You may be wondering, how does these factors impact the increased amount of VAWG? Well, believe it or not, it does. Different forms of violence such as psychological, physical, sexual, and economic forms of domestic violence such as being low on food and confined living conditions have a great impact. Financial struggles and school closures intensify the risks of violence towards girls such as trafficking, assault, child marriage, and harrassment. In addition, the pandemic has closed transportation and support services such as SOS hotline, rape cilinical management, shelters, sexual and reproductive health services which creates difficulties for survivors to access support (such as justice, medical aid, health care, social protection, and more). A lot of these shelters and/or services are facing difficulties to obtain food, maintain hygiene, and specific resources for different cases. Therefore, many victims assume that they are closed and end up not seeking for help which dangers themselves even more.
In the context of 2020 alongside the global pandemic, the UNiTE outlined their engagement strategy for their advocacy focus which are: Fund, Prevent, Respond and Collect.
Here is a little summary for what each focus means:
What can you do to help?
It is always important to help spread awareness about VAWG and GBV no matter what. Here are 4 things (of course there are more) YOU can do to help and participate both within the 16 days of activism and in your daily life:
To conclude, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence is an event that occurs every year from the 25th of November through the 10th of December. It is where people from around the world give their attention to the multiple forms of violence a victim has to go through. With the pandemic, things are getting a lot more tough and difficult for victims to reach out to support services. We might not be able to remove sexual violence in a snap, but by making contributions together, we can make the world a better place for an individual one step at a time.