Monday, November 28, 2011

16 Days Against Gender Violence

By Micheline Hazou

The 16 Days Campaign calling for the eradication of all forms of violence against women starts today, November 25.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign emanating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute (WGLI) sponsored by Rutgers University Schools of Arts and Sciences' Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) in 1991.

I am surprised not to see any activities planned in the region, where reports about gender violence abound. Or maybe there are activities in the pipeline of which I am unaware.

I was happily brought up in a family without violence, where females were loved, respected and treated on a par with males. I was fortunate to enroll at university, although my academic pursuits were cut short by civil war. I was also lucky to realize a childhood dream by landing a career in journalism and falling on an editor who believed in gender equality.

It was not easy for a woman to be accepted as a full-fledged journalist in the early Seventies in the Middle East. On the job, my female colleagues and I were often derided, looked down upon and mocked. We repeatedly came back to our magazine workplace in tears because of the way we were treated. But we persisted and rapidly earned the respect of our readers and of the people of public interest we were writing about and interviewing.

The 16 Days Campaign participants chose November 25 (I nternational Day Against Violence Against Women), and December 10 (International Human Rights Day) to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.

This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates, including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day; December 1, World AIDS Day; and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

The 16 Days Campaign calls for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by:

  • Raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels

  • Strengthening local work around violence against women

  • Establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women

  • Providing a forum where organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies

  • Demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women

  • Creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women.
Since 1991, over 3,700 organizations in approximately 164 countries have participated in the 16 Days Campaign.

Patricia, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabal*

International Day Against Violence Against Women was first declared in 1981 by the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean to commemorate the violent assassination, by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, of the Mirabal sisters on that date in 1960.

As a result of extensive marshaling by women's rights organizations, the UN General Assembly officially designated November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women [A/RES/54/134] in 1999.

The theme for 2011 is: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!

To explore some of the deeper social structures that promote and perpetuate violence against women and girls, the CWGL last year launched a multi-annual campaign theme on the intersections of militarism and violence against women. While there are many different ways to define militarism, “our working definition outlines militarism as an ideology that creates a culture of fear and supports the use of violence, aggression, or military interventions for settling disputes and enforcing economic and political interests,” says the CWGL.

“Current world events -- including military interventions, femicides, attacks on civilians participating in political change, ongoing conflicts etc. -- exemplify the distinctive way in which militarism influences how we see our neighbors, our families, our public life, and other people in the world,” it adds.

This year's 16 Days Campaign will delve further into five priority issues for those working on the intersections of violence against women and militarism:

  1. Bringing together women, peace, and human rights movements to challenge militarism: There are many international tools and mechanisms that can help hold governments accountable for protecting and respecting rights (e.g. the Beijing Platform for Action, CEDAW, international humanitarian law, the Human Rights Council, and Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960 on Women, Peace, and Security, and more). These approaches and tools provide entry points for social movements to reframe security as a human rights issue instead of a military issue.

  2. Proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence: Domestic violence is a reality in every country of the world. According to the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) Women's Network, women are three times more likely to die violently if there is a gun in the house. Consequently, this year the 16-Day Campaign will also look at the sale, trade, proliferation, and misuse of small firearms.

  3. Sexual violence in and after conflict: Rape is often used as a tactic of war to drive fear and to humiliate or punish women and their communities.

  4. Political violence against women, including pre/during/post-election violence: The use of violence to achieve political goals has specific gendered implications. Governments that use force against their own civilians, suspend rule of law in an “emergency” period or use “anti-terrorism” laws to suppress pro-democracy movements or to silence human rights defenders also employ militaristic ideologies that attempt to pass off violence as “security” measures.

  5. Sexual and gender-based violence committed by state agents, particularly the police or military: Even in places where there is no recognized conflict, militarized violence against civilians by uniformed personnel takes place.
The 2011 16 Days Campaign is an opportunity for reflection and conversation about what the global women's rights movement can do to challenge structures that allow violence against women to continue at all levels. It is also a crucial time to reach out to and involve more men, boys, faith-based and traditional leaders, and other key partners in this work towards building a more just and peaceful world.

A crucial aspect of the 16 Days Campaign involves listening to the stories of women around the world and standing in solidarity with one another, but it also underscores the value of working locally to transform violent or militaristic mindsets.

During these 16 days and beyond, let's focus on how “peace in the home” extends and relates to “peace in the world.” Every nonviolent value can influence family, friends, communities and governments. Let's now put our shoulders to the wheel.

[* Original images of the Mirabal Sisters owned by the Mirabal Family]

Related post:

Rest in Peace, Myriam Achkar -- at Nadine Moawad's blog "What if I get Free?" -- November 25, 2011

More about this blogger:

You can find out more about Micheline Hazou and read more of her posts on Mich Cafe http://michcafe.blogspot.com/


Keep the conversation going...

Blogger Mich said...

Thank you sooooo much for sharing this post O. It's a precious cause and I hope we can keep the 16 Days going all year long xxx :-)

November 28, 2011 at 2:31 AM  

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