Today marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which annually kicks-off 16 Days of Activism concluding on International Human Rights Day on December 10th. Today’s commemoration is a reminder that addressing gender-based violence is essential to creating a strong foundation where human rights, peace, democracy, and even strong economies can take root. It is an opportunity to transcend pervasive patterns of violence and exclusion to create mutually affirming spaces for women and men alike. Celebrating the agency of women is an essential part of freedom. It challenges the structural inequalities and restrictive gender roles that violence is built upon.
Today is not about commemorating violence; today is about celebrating the ingenuity, creativity, and bravery of activists, artists, athletes, survivors, and community leaders around the world who are dedicated to gender equality and diversity. It is in that spirit that the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues is pleased to continue our annual tradition of celebrating local leaders from communities around the world to raise awareness about gender-based violence with U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world.
Here are just a few highlights: this year the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is co-sponsoring a media and video exhibition that highlights women artists from Afghanistan and the region. Throughout the 16-days of activism, Embassy Kabul will also highlight people and groups across the country that are challenging dangerous stereotypes and breaking barriers in Afghanistan, such as the world-class athletes of the Afghan Women’s Cycling Team. The U.S. Mission in Gaborone, Botswana, will host a seminar entitled “New Directions,” to share the latest research and responses to gender-based violence and global health with a cross-section of local service providers and stakeholders, and to highlight services and support for survivors across the country. Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City will share exciting stories of activism and partnerships on their Facebook page, such as the Mexican Professional Soccer League, Liga Bancomer MX, who are taking a stand against gender-based violence.
You don’t have to work for an embassy to be a part of the 16 Days campaign. Here are three ways you can join the movement to end gender-based violence during the 16 Days of activism:
- Link Up. Use the #16Days campaign as a way to learn more about the many forms of gender-based violence whether early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting to domestic violence and human trafficking. Explore how your participation in the campaign can manifest on college campuses and even online. Check out how the new 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals are taking this issue on, or look up the Association for Progressive Communication’s #TakeBacktheTech campaign to fight back against violence and intimidation of women online. You can also review these digital safety and social media guides to learn more about how to be a savvy and safe activist online.
- Speak out. Talk with friends and family about what you have learned, and use social media to stand against gender-based violence. You can follow Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Cathy Russell on Twitter and Facebook to see how #WeEndGBV. Throughout the 16-Days of Activism, Ambassador Russell will be highlighting many stories of champions working to end gender-based violence.
- Step Outside. Find local or international organizations dedicated to supporting survivors of violence or advocating for change, and ask them how you can get involved as a volunteer. Take the It’s On Us pledge, or start a discussion group in your community through your church, mosque, or temple about gender-based violence. Use the power of art as an entry point to talk about tough issues, like the forced labor in the clothes we buy or the food we eat. Use this great 16 Days of Activism Kit to start where you already are to take a stand against gender-based violence.
About the Author: Betsey Bramon serves in the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues.