Home OPINIONS 16 days of activism against gender-based violence: Unmasking the global epidemic

16 days of activism against gender-based violence: Unmasking the global epidemic

The annual "16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence" campaign commences, spanning from November 25 to December 10, bringing to the forefront the urgent need to address and eradicate violence against women and girls worldwide.

The curtain rises on the global stage, and for 16 days, a powerful spotlight is cast upon a pervasive and often silenced issue—gender-based violence. The annual “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence” campaign commences, spanning from November 25 to December 10, bringing to the forefront the urgent need to address and eradicate violence against women and girls worldwide.

This period is not just a calendar observance; it’s a collective call to action, a rallying cry echoing through communities, governments, and organizations.

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As the world unites in this campaign, the focus sharpens on unmasking the global epidemic of gender-based violence, shedding light on the shadows that persist in every corner of our society. In this exploration, we delve into the significance of the 16 days of activism, aiming to unravel the layers of this complex issue and inspire collective efforts toward lasting change.

The Scope of Gender-Based Violence Worldwide

Gender-based violence, in its myriad forms, transcends geographical borders and cultural boundaries, impacting millions of lives globally. The statistics paint a stark reality—a reality that demands our attention and action. According to recent UN data, an estimated 736 million women—almost one in three—have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their lives. This alarming prevalence of abuse within interpersonal relationships highlights the pervasive nature of intimate partner violence, affecting one in three women worldwide.

Sexual assault, human trafficking, and other insidious forms of violence further compound the issue, leaving indelible scars on individuals and communities. Beyond the immediate trauma inflicted on survivors, gender-based violence permeates societal structures, hindering economic development, perpetuating cycles of poverty, and compromising the overall well-being of affected populations.

In examining the scope of this global epidemic, it becomes evident that gender-based violence is not confined to specific regions or demographics. It is a pervasive force that knows no bounds, affecting individuals from all walks of life, irrespective of socioeconomic status, race, or cultural background.

Underscoring the Urgency: The 16 Days of Activism

Amid the global crisis of gender-based violence, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence serves as a catalyst for change. From November 25 to December 10 each year, it goes beyond symbolism, urging the world to acknowledge and confront the structures perpetuating gender-based violence. Originating in 1991, its significance has intensified, becoming a deliberate effort to unmask the pervasive nature of gender-based violence.

This year’s theme, “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls,” underscores the urgency. The United Nations calls for a comprehensive response, urging investment in prevention through strengthened legislation and improved services. This theme reflects a commitment to actively address the root causes of gender-based violence.

During these 16 days, the world focuses on the stories of survivors, advocates, and initiatives making a difference. It’s a time for reflection, education, and action. The urgency to address and eradicate gender-based violence becomes palpable, with communities, governments, and organizations joining forces.

The campaign is a powerful reminder that the fight against gender-based violence requires sustained effort, dialogue, and a commitment to a world where violence is not tolerated, and the rights and dignity of every individual are safeguarded. The theme emphasizes that strategic investments in prevention are crucial for lasting change and building a world free from gender-based violence.

Real Stories, Real Impact

Within the statistics and campaigns lies the heartbeat of the 16 Days of Activism—the real stories of individuals whose lives have been profoundly impacted by gender-based violence. These stories are not just narratives; they are testaments to resilience, courage, and the urgent need for change.

Breaking Chains in Chaco

Diana, a 48-year-old mother of seven from the Argentine province of Chaco, endured 28 years of abuse before finding the courage to separate from her partner. Convinced that staying could lead to her death, she initially hesitated to report the abuse. However, with the support of local services and a shelter affiliated with the Inter-American Shelter Network, Diana not only escaped her tormentor but also pressed charges. Now, working as an administrative assistant,

Rebuilding in Bangladesh

Diana’s story exemplifies the intersectionality of gender-based violence, poverty, and immigration issues, underscoring the vital role of initiatives supported by UN Women.

Romela, facing cruelty and torture in her marriage in Bangladesh, found refuge in the Tarango women’s shelter, which expanded through a partnership with UN Women. The shelter provided not only safe accommodations but also legal, medical, and vocational support.

Breaking free from an abusive relationship allowed Romela to regain control of her life. Her story challenges gender norms and emphasizes the importance of providing comprehensive support for survivors to rebuild their lives.

Overcoming in Kenya

Goretti’s harrowing experience in western Kenya, where she endured abuse from her in-laws for nearly 20 years, showcases the complexities of cultural dynamics. Hospitalized after a severe beating, she turned to a local human rights defender for help. Despite facing challenges with the legal system, Goretti’s case was eventually settled out of court, granting her the property and land title she had lost. Her journey highlights the crucial role of grassroots organizations supported by UN Women in providing legal training and assistance to survivors in regions where reporting such cases can be challenging.

Moldovan voice against harassment

Milena’s story from Moldova sheds light on the often-taboo topic of sexual harassment and violence in the country. Raped at the age of 14, Milena initially blocked out the memory until a triggering event brought it back. Her journey to understanding and overcoming the trauma led her to become an activist raising awareness about sexual violence. Engaging in a UN Women youth mentorship program, Milena developed a self-help guide for survivors and became an advocate for gender equality and human rights.

Finding Justice in Morocco

Layla’s narrative from Morocco speaks to the challenges faced by survivors in seeking justice. Enduring various forms of violence, including sexual and emotional abuse, Layla found the courage to go to the police while pregnant. Encountering a supportive female police officer, Layla was referred to a local shelter for single mothers, where she not only found safety but also pursued education and empowerment. Her story emphasizes the importance of building trust in law enforcement to encourage survivors to seek justice and support.

Initiatives and collaborations during the 16 days

As the 16 Days of Activism unfold, a symphony of initiatives and collaborations resonates across the globe, amplifying the call for change. This period is marked not only by awareness but by concrete actions taken by governments, organizations, and communities to address the root causes of gender-based violence.

Global advocacy campaigns:

International organizations and NGOs launched powerful advocacy campaigns during the 16 Days, utilizing the momentum to raise awareness on a grand scale. From social media campaigns to public events, these initiatives strive to educate, engage, and mobilize individuals worldwide. The Orange the World campaign, symbolized by the color orange, becomes a visual representation of solidarity and a call to end violence against women and girls.

Community-led movements

At the grassroots level, community-led movements take center stage. Local organizations organize events, workshops, and support networks, creating spaces for dialogue and healing. These initiatives recognize the unique challenges faced by different communities and emphasize the importance of tailored, culturally sensitive approaches in the fight against gender-based violence.

Government policies and legislative changes

The 16 Days of Activism often serves as a catalyst for governments to reassess and strengthen their policies on gender-based violence. Legislative changes, increased funding for support services, and heightened penalties for perpetrators are some of the outcomes observed during and following the campaign. The period becomes a focal point for holding governments accountable for their commitment to creating safer societies.

Collaborative efforts across sectors

Crucially, the 16 Days of Activism encourages collaborative efforts across various sectors. Governments, NGOs, businesses, and individuals join forces to address the multifaceted nature of gender-based violence. This collaborative approach recognizes that a comprehensive solution requires the active participation and commitment of diverse stakeholders.

As the initiatives and collaborations unfold during the 16 Days of Activism, the world witnesses a collective determination to unmask the global epidemic of gender-based violence. These efforts, both large and small, contribute to a growing movement that seeks to eradicate violence, promote gender equality, and create a world where every individual can live free from fear.

The role of education and awareness

Within the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, education emerges as a powerful tool in dismantling stereotypes, challenging societal norms, and preventing the perpetuation of violence. Awareness campaigns, workshops, and educational initiatives play a crucial role in shaping a future where gender-based violence is not tolerated.

Promoting healthy relationships

Educational programmes during this period focus on promoting healthy relationships and fostering a culture of consent. By addressing root causes and providing resources for building respectful connections, these initiatives aim to break the cycles of violence that can persist across generations.

Challenging gender stereotypes

The 16 Days of Activism provides a platform to challenge ingrained gender stereotypes that contribute to the normalization of violence. Educational campaigns aim to redefine notions of masculinity and femininity, encouraging a more inclusive and equitable understanding of gender roles.

Empowering individuals

Education becomes a tool for empowerment, equipping individuals with the knowledge and skills to recognize, resist, and report instances of gender-based violence. By fostering a sense of agency, education becomes a catalyst for change, encouraging individuals to become active participants in creating a safer, more equal society.

Incorporating gender-based violence prevention in curricula

Advocates push for the inclusion of gender-based violence prevention in educational curricula at various levels. By integrating discussions about consent, healthy relationships, and respect into formal education, the 16 Days of Activism seeks to create a foundation for a future generation that rejects violence.

Raising public awareness

Beyond formal education, awareness campaigns leverage various mediums to reach a wide audience. These campaigns use storytelling, art, and digital platforms to disseminate information, fostering a broader cultural shift in attitudes toward gender-based violence.

As we explore the role of education and awareness during the 16 Days of Activism, it becomes evident that creating lasting change requires not only addressing the immediate impacts of violence but also transforming the societal structures that allow such violence to persist. Education becomes a cornerstone in this transformative process, paving the way for a future where gender-based violence is not just condemned but prevented.

What next after ‘16 Days’?

In these 16 Days of Activism, a tapestry of stories, initiatives, and commitments unfolds. As the world unites against the global epidemic of gender-based violence, these days serve as a vivid reminder—a call to action for a more just and equitable future.

Beyond these 16 days, let the stories resonate, the initiatives inspire, and the education efforts sow seeds for lasting change. The unmasking of this global epidemic is an ongoing journey that demands the commitment of individuals, communities, and nations alike. In this shared dedication lies the promise of a world where every individual can live free from the shackles of violence, and where the rights and dignity of all are unequivocally protected.

Cecilia Mwende Maundu is a Broadcast Journalist and Digital Security Expert

Cecilia Maundu
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