Eradicating gender-based violence is more crucial than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gender-based violence 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. All forms of violence against women have increased since March creating a “shadow pandemic” due to several factors, according to the UN. Women and girls are required to isolate at home during lockdowns, sometimes with abusers, and financial burdens plus tight living quarters are putting more households under emotional stress. What’s more, strained health and social services and lack of transportation are making it more difficult for survivors to access important resources or help.
Wednesday, 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. Individuals, civil society, grassroots organizations, UN agencies, and governments will join together to demand accountability for the protection of women and girls over the two-week period.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres is supporting the 16 Days initiative through the UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence Against Women campaign. In response to the uptick in violence against women, the UN is calling on countries to take urgent action to fund women’s rights organizations, support for health and social services, make services to address gender-based violence services essential, prioritize police responses, and collect data.
Here’s everything you need to know about 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence and how to get involved.
Who started the 16 Days 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?
Gender-based violence 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 gender-based violence and human rights by falling during a period with 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 16 Days campaign set out to raise awareness about gender-based violence but in 2016 pivoted to accountability. Two years later, ending gender-based violence 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 will become effective June 2021. Ratifying C190 continues to be a focus in 2020 with an emphasis on informal workers who disproportionately put their lives at risk in unsafe workplace conditions.
How can everyday citizens support the 16 Days campaign?
The UNiTE Campaign 2020 theme for 16 Days of Activism is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” The UN shared several ways to get involved and is inviting supporters to wear orange on Wednesday, Nov. 25, in solidarity. Individuals can also share orange posts and gender-based violence resources or available services on social media. Donating to local or national shelters or hotline services for gender-based violence survivors is another way to help.
On a more personal level, the UN recommends committing to stand up against violence, having conversations with friends and family about the issue, and seeking out education about gender-based violence.
For events and activities worldwide, find out where to join here.