Did you know that each year, there are 16 days dedicated to the fight against gender-based violence? Starting from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to December 10 (Human Rights Day), millions of activists around the world join this campaign, plan actions and speak up to break the curse of violence in their societies.
First launched in 1991 by the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute, the “16 Days Campaign”, as it is usually called, is coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, in partnership with Rutgers University. The event is supported by UN Women and other international institutions aiming at the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) #5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The fact is that there can’t be any form of empowerment if girls and women still face violence. Women must first be freed from the heavy burden of violence, which impedes all attempts of (r)evolution.
What is gender-based violence? According to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Gender-based violence is “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately” (CEDAW GR 19, Article 3 Istanbul Convention). And in its Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (A/RES/48/104, article 2), the UN General Assembly identifies various forms of violence, as per the following:
“(a) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family; including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation.
(b) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;
(c) Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs”
This list has certainly evolved since 1993, especially with the advent of social media and new communications technologies which open the door to new forms of harassment. Strategies developed to tackle this curse must evolve along the same lines.
In Madagascar, domestic violence is one of the most widespread types of gender-based violence and is considered a social taboo. Traditionally, each bride-to-be is advised by her mother or grandmother to remain silent, whatever might happen in her marriage. Women are told that what happens in the bedroom and at home must remain there. My own grandmother, whom I love and cherish, told me that “Marriage means sacrifice. Your husband may do things to you (we never name the evil in Madagascar), but just bite your tongue and everything will be fine.” Thankfully, my husband is not that kind of man, but I still feel it is my duty to stand against this curse and to help the unspeakable to be spoken.
Our first project with the 16 days campaign dates back to 2013. We wrote and produced a short film called “Lettre Femme” (a French pun meaning at the same time letter from/to a woman, the female being, or simply a woman). We shot the film at my mom’s house, featuring my friends, who generously volunteered to participate. Last year, we launched the Malagasy Women’s Manifesto Against all Sorts of Violence through a petition. This year, we plan to organize a variety of trainings about nonviolence.
It is a tragic fact that many Malagasy women are convinced that they deserve some kind of violence from their partner. “If he beats me, it’s because I’ve done something wrong. It’s my own fault.” Even worse, women (mothers mainly) are the ones who help perpetuate this violence – by silencing their girls and normalizing the belief that violence is part of marriage. Our whole society needs to be educated in order to eradicate violence, and this struggle must start in every household. Teach your boys to respect women – this is the message we have to spread to all parents.
If you are interested in joining this year’s official 16 Days Campaign, please click here. You’ll find all the information related to the event, a Toolkit for Action as well as the communications templates that you can use. Register your event and share it with the world so that we can show the world that women are united against violence. Remember, Unity matters! We shall overcome!
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Ketakandriana Rafitoson, our contributor from Madagascar.
Photo credit to the author.