Violence Against Women is a Public Health, Gender Equality And Human Rights Issue
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual global campaign that starts on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and runs until December 10, Human Rights Day.
On November 25 1960, three political activists and sisters, Minerva, Patria, and Maria Teresa Mirabal, were assassinated. The sisters actively opposed the cruelty and systematic violence of Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. They were involved in clandestine activities against his regime, and he had them killed in retaliation.
The Mirabal sisters became symbols of both popular and feminist resistance. In commemorating their deaths, November 25 was declared International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Latin America in 1980. In 1999, the day was formally recognised by the United Nations, and in support of the initiative, the United Nations, in 2008, launched the campaign UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women, which runs parallel to the 16 Days of Activism.
The 16 days of activism campaign was launched in 1991 by the first women’s Global Leadership Institute and held by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University. The theme was “Violence Against Women Violates Human Rights”, and women from around the world banded together with the Center for Women’s Global Leadership for the first campaign. The tradition has continued through the years, with the campaign unifying women from around the world, and 2021 marked the 30th anniversary of the campaign.
The 16-day movement runs through several significant dates, and the timeline prioritises different pertinent human rights issues.
November 25 – International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
November 29 – International Women Human Rights Defenders Day.
December 1 – World AIDS Day.
December 3 – International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
December 5 – Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development.
December 6 – Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, which is observed as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada.
December 10 – International Human Rights Day and the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The campaign facilitates organisation by people and bodies worldwide to call for preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls. Women and organisations committed to ending gender-based violence participate in the event, highlighting the chosen theme of the year in their activities.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign introduces a new theme or continues an old theme every year. The themes prioritise specific areas of gender inequality and work to bring attention to these issues and impart change. In addition, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership sends out a “Take Action Kit” every year, educating participants on steps to make a change.
Since 1991, over 6,000 organisations in an estimated 182 countries have participated in the 16 Days Campaign, reaching 300 million. Civil societies, activists, government agencies, businesses, UN staff, charities, schools and individuals plan activities ranging from protests and rallies to exhibitions and lectures; all channelled towards eliminating violence against women.
The goals of the campaign include:
- To raise awareness about gender-based violence against women as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels.
- To strengthen local work around gender-based violence against women and establish a clear link between local and international work to end gender-based violence against women.
- To provide a forum where organisers can develop and share new and effective strategies.
- To demonstrate the solidarity of women worldwide organising against gender-based violence against women.
- To create tools to pressure governments to implement commitments to eliminate gender-based violence against women.
According to the UN Women, “violence against women and girls remains the most pervasive human rights violation around the world.” In recent times, we have seen an increase in regressive politics, oppressive policies, the policing of women’s bodies and identities and the bold and brazen support of abusers in mainstream society. Anti-feminist movements are increasingly gaining traction, and women’s rights continue to be attacked at an alarming rate worldwide. Now more than ever, we need to organise for women's liberation worldwide.
Source: UN Women
Gender-based violence is pervasive in Nigeria, like the rest of the world and is enabled and encouraged by a profoundly patriarchal society. According to the 2018 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), 33 per cent of women aged 15-49 in Nigeria have experienced physical or sexual violence; 24 per cent have experienced only physical violence, 2% have experienced only sexual violence, while 7 per cent have experienced both physical and sexual violence.
In the same way abusers rally around abusers, women must gather together to advance our cause. Campaigns like the 16 days of activism are a step in the right direction, helping to raise awareness about the pervasive problem of violence against women.
In 2022, the 2021 theme of “Ending Femicide” will be continued with a particular focus on groups of women more vulnerable to femicide.
Are you wondering how to participate? Check out the FAQs on their website to see events and organisations near you, the activities of civil societies and organisations around you that centre women, or create awareness in your own way, however you can.