Eradicating gender-based violence has never been more crucial, the 16 Days of Activism global campaign has existed for over three decades in the name of bringing the horrid phenomenon to an end. 

Gender-based violence (GBV) can take many forms, from physical to mental, and has long-lasting negative impacts on women and girls’ well-being that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Nov. 25, is the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and marks the beginning of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. This is a period where individuals, civil society, grassroots organizations, UN agencies, and governments join together to demand accountability for the protection of women and girls over two weeks.

The Unitited Nations champions the campaign through simutaneously hosting their own campaign called UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence Against Women, which launched in 2008, 17 years after the #16Days campaign was founded. Both campaigns are crucial in the fight to end extreme poverty as GBV is a global issue that prevents us from achieving true gender equality by 2030. Here’s everything you need to know about 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence and how to get involved. 

3 Key Facts About the 16 Days of Activism Campaign Agaist Gender-Based Violence

  • The campaign kicks off on Nov. 25, which marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ends on Dec. 10, the International Day of Human Rights. 
  • It is the longest-running women's rights campaign in the world.
  • One in three women experience gender-based violence in their lifetime, making this campaign essential now more than ever. 

Who Started the Campaign?

Activists launched the annual international campaign at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute at Rutgers University in 1991, and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership has led the initiative ever since. More than 6,000 organizations from approximately 187 countries have participated and it's the longest-running women’s rights campaign in the world. 

What's the Goal of the 16 Days Campaign?

GBV occurs in developing and developed countries alike. Over a third of women (35%) have experienced physical and or sexual violence, and gender-based violence impacts 1 in 3 women in their lifetime, according to the World Bank. Failure to protect women threatens future generations, as children who grow up in households with violence are more likely to experience or perpetuate violence.

The 16 Days campaign initially aimed to connect GBV and human rights by falling within a time period that boasts several human rights advocacy days, such as International Women Human Rights Defenders Day on Nov. 29 and World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. 

The campaign hit its first target in 1993 after it gathered signatures from 124 countries for a petition urging the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna to acknowledge gender-based violence as a human rights issue. The UN appointed the first special rapporteur on violence against women the following year. 

At first, the campaign set out to raise awareness about GBV but in 2016 it pivoted to accountability. Two years later, ending GBV in the workplace became a priority in conjunction with the introduction of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 190 to eliminate harassment and violence in the workplace. On June 21, 2020, Uruguay and Fiji became the first two countries to ratify the convention, which became effective June 2021. Ratifying C190 continues to be a focus with an emphasis on informal workers who disproportionately put their lives at risk in unsafe workplace conditions. 

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the impact and severity of GBV around the world, as women and girls were required to isolate at home during lockdowns, sometimes with abusers. Financial burdens plus tight living quarters put more households under emotional stress, leading to increased levels of GBV during lockdown periods, and strengthening the global call to action for this form of violence to be acted against immediately. 

Each year the campaign has a different theme, from “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” in 2020 (as orange is the color of solidarity against all forms of violence), to "UNiTE! Activism to end violence against women and girls" in 2022, which calls for collective solidarity after a global period of isolation and separation. Each theme is timely to what the fight against GBV looks like in that year, and aims to highlight the need to protect and uphold women's rights.

How Can Global Citizens Support the 16 Days Campaign?

There are several ways to contribute to the fight to ending violence against women and girls, these include showing up virtually or physically to raise your voice in support of the cause, educating yourself further on the issue at hand, and teaching others about the severity of the issue. We've put togehter a list of all the ways you can get involved here

You can also join the Global Citizen movement and take actions throughout the year to help call for the protection of women and girls everywhere throughout the #16Days campaign and beyond. You can jump into taking action right now by going through some of the gender equality actions we've listed for this year's 16 Days of Activism campaign. We also have lifestyle challenges on the Global Citizen App designed to help educate every day citizens about the issue and the campaign, and inspire you to take action. All you need to do is download the app, scroll over to our challenges page, and keep a lookout for their challenges so you can take part. Get started with our #16Days: Stop Gender-Based Violence challenge

Global Citizen Explains

Demand Equity

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence: Everything You Should Know

By Leah Rodriguez