Every year, between International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25, and International Human Rights Day, on Dec. 10, the world marks 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
This year’s theme is “Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now”, with orange being the official color of the United Nations’ campaign on ending violence against women. The campaign works to call for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence (GBV), including everything from raising awareness about GBV, to supporting global and local efforts, to demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world against this challenge.
But gender-based violence isn’t just a “women’s problem”, and the 16 Days campaign to combat GBV is far from a women-only effort — because of course, without the efforts of men and boys too, we’ll never put a stop to GBV.
So what are the best ways that men and boys can get involved? We’ve put together a run-down of some of the key ways men and boys can be great allies in the effort to stop violence against women and girls.
1. Create a Safe Environment for Children
Men can better foster a safe environment for children, including at home, at school, and in the community, according to Brazilian NGO Promundo, which works to engage men and boys in gender equality efforts.
According to Promundo, studies across 24 of 27 countries revealed that exposure to violence and trauma, whether in childhood or in the context of conflict, is linked to men’s use of violence against their intimate partners — creating a cycle of violence that can be broken through improving safety for children.
2. Be Actively Involved in Raising Their Own Children
According to the report State of the World’s Fathers, produced by Promundo in 2019, when men play an integral part in the care and development of their own children right from infancy, it fosters a closer intimate bond and connection.
Findings from the report also show that when fathers are more involved in child care, it benefits women and children, and men themselves. Promundo further highlights that men’s greater involvement in care work can be linked to a reduction in men’s violence against women.
3. Stop Harmful Ideas of Toxic Masculinity
You’ve probably heard of the term “toxic masculinity”, which refers to exaggerated traditionally masculine traits and their negative impacts. These traits include things like strength, a lack of emotion, and dominance, and can lead to behaviours like sexual aggression or control, suppressing emotions, and a tendency towards violence.
Stripping away “toxic masculinity”, therefore, is vital, not just for the benefit of women and children, but also for men too, amid an epidemic of male suicide that can be partly attributed to a stigma about emotions “not being manly.”
According to the Children's Dignity Forum (CDF), men need to play a major role in helping boys, at home and in the community, break free from harmful ideas of what “manliness” or “masculinity” means.
4. Create a Safe Listening Space for Women
It goes for almost anything but before we can act effectively, we must understand the need — and for gender-based violence, that means listening to women and girls.
As highlighted by UN Women, a woman sharing her story of violence is the first step in breaking the cycle of abuse. We can all (not just men and boys) support her by giving her the safe space she needs to speak up and be heard.
But listening goes broader than listening to women survivors, it means listening to activists and experts too, on what’s needed to combat GBV. And even broader than that, it means creating the space to listen and hear all the women and girls in your life, from your home, to your school and workplace, to your whole community.
5. Support Women’s Organizations and Services Globally and in Your Community
The COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns have heightened violence against women and girls, increasing demand for support services that are themselves also experiencing disruptions in their day-to-day.
But these services and organizations, both globally and within your local community, play a vital role in supporting women and combating gender-based violence, including through providing shelters, hotlines, counselling, and more.
Check out the services and organizations available in your local community and how they need your support — whether through funding donations if you can, or donations of time, services, or goods and products they need. You can also help amplify their work through your social media to show more people the good work they’re doing.
If you’re looking globally, UN Women works with women’s organizations all around the world to end violence against women, support survivors, and advocate for equal rights. You can find out more about supporting UN Women here.
6. Understand & Practice Consent
Sexual activity without consent is sexual violence. There are loads of resources online to learn more about sexual consent, what it is, and why it’s so important in the fight against gender-based violence. Here’s a good place to get started, from the UK NGO Rape Crisis, but you can never spend enough time researching and understanding consent.
Once you understand consent and its importance, practice what you’ve learned — and preach it, tell everyone you know why consent is vital.
7. Stand Against Rape Culture
Sexual violence is too normalized in our society — from the media we consume, to the jokes we tell (and those we awkwardly laugh along with because we’re too embarrassed to speak up). But gender violence is fuelled by how we act in our daily lives, and, as highlighted by UN Women, naming rape culture is the first step in dismantling it.
Every moment of every day we have the chance to examine our behaviour, what we say and do, and think about how we might inadvertently be contributing to a society that belittles and harms women and girls.
Here’s a great bit of further reading from UN Women, on the ways we can all help stand up against rape culture.
8. Start a Conversation
We learn a huge amount from the people around us, whether it’s at school or work, our family, or the people we interact with online.
While you’re on your journey to be a better ally to women and girls around the world, why not share what you’re learning with the people in your online and offline communities? It might feel awkward at first, but normalizing conversations about sex and sexual violence are an important step in dismantling the taboos and stigmas that keep GBV so pervasive.
This 16 Days campaign, join in the conversation online by using the hashtag #16Days.
9. Hold Each Other Accountable
Gender-based and sexual violence can take a lot of different forms and can crop up in all kinds of places, both online and off, whether it’s school, home, work, out at a bar, in the street, on public transport, or really anywhere.
You can help by calling it out when you see it, and making sure other people know and understand why catcalling, inappropriate sexual comments, unwanted sexual attention, sexist and demeaning jokes, and more, are not okay.
10. Join Global Citizen’s #16Days Challenge
Throughout the 16 Days of Activism campaign, we’re asking Global Citizens to join us in standing up and fighting for women’s health and rights globally.
You can join our #16Days Challenge by clicking here, and you’ll be able to take a simple action each day to help you learn more about women’s rights, bodily autonomy, and gender violence online. You’ll have the chance to start important conversations with your loved ones, advocate on social media for women’s and girls’ right to their own bodies, support women-owned businesses in your community, sign petitions to support bodily autonomy, and more.
Women’s rights are human rights — and they must be promoted and protected. This 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, we’re asking Global Citizens to join us for our #16Days Challenge, to take a simple action each day that will help you learn more about women’s rights, bodily autonomy, and gender violence online.
You’ll start important conversations with your loved ones, advocate on social media for women’s and girls’ right to their own bodies, support women-owned businesses in your community, sign petitions to support bodily autonomy, and more. Find out more about the #16Days Challenge and start taking action here.