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.
I write this in response to the recent terrorist attacks in Belgium on March 22th.
When I came home from work on Tuesday, I turned on the news and watched chaos and destruction. I am not particularly partial to watching the news, but this hit really close to home. I watched in shock and horror, not completely able to grasp exactly what I was watching.
Privileged as I have been most of my life, this kind of violence and terrorism are things that I watch on television or read about in the newspapers.
As my kids walked in, I felt a strong need to give them some sort of explanation or assurance that they were safe. I couldn’t. I was at a loss for words at that moment.
“Terrorists fight a war against unarmed women, children and elders,” I said. “They fight innocent people instead of playing by the rules and fighting against soldiers. That is what’s so wrong about terrorism. These victims had nothing to do with any war whatsoever. There were just living their lives.”
The news reporter switched to his colleagues in Beirut.
“What are the responses there?” he asked.
“People are shocked and appalled,” the reporter answered. “Although there are some who are happy that ISIS has been able to strike one of their enemies.”
I for one couldn’t understand why that was being reported hours after the attack. I can only imagine what it would feel like to lose a loved one to terrorism and to hear that people are cheering about it.
It was another hate seed being planted.
But sometimes my heart is flooded with fear and my mind worries about the future. It is not the terrorist attacks that scare me the most. What scares me the most is the growing intolerance against Muslims, refugees, and foreigners in Europe.
I see that hatred is growing, and bitter seeds of hate are being planted, watered, and rooted. My response is to double my efforts in teaching my children compassion, kindness and tolerance toward others. I realize that my reactions, my responses to these violent acts, will teach them how to respond to hate. So I refuse to be overwhelmed by fear or hatred. I grab onto hope and hold it tight.
On Friday, it was reported that in Brussels, people were writing messages of love and solidarity on the streets. The simple gesture of people writing with colored chalk warmed my heart.
Because if we are able turn to love instead of hatred, the terrorists haven’t won.
My heart goes out to the people affected by this tragedy.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light in spite of all the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu –
How do you hold onto hope in the wake of terrorism? How do you talk to your children about it?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of the Netherlands. Picture credit: Christine Organ.
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian war. Five years of fighting, death, destruction. Heartbreaking stories, loss and questions. How much longer can this go on for? How is this going to end? (more…)
…and prevention is protection.
Now-a-days, we hear a lot about violence. Violence at home, bullying at school, harassment at work or on the street. Violence is everywhere. It does not define our societies or who we are but it plays an important role in our evolution and how we decide to define ourselves.
In the past couple of years, the French government put into place important measures to fight all types of violence, creating adds to show its impact on peoples lives, opening more helplines, dedicated centres to welcome the victims, creating new jobs and training programs. Many well-known artists took it over and started campaigns around the country and in the world.
Still, I think something is missing in order, if not to eradicate violence completely, at least to change the vision of men and women on the subject and prevent violence from spreading even more. Before discussing the impact of violence, people first have to be educated on what violence is, how to spot it and how to protect themselves from it.
We tend to think that violence is only physical. Is it something we learn as kids? Or are the other forms of violence too cruel to be true?
I met women who kept telling me that in their case, it was not violence. I met kids who kept telling me that other kids were just laughing at them, no big deal. I met men who kept telling me that if their bosses were that mean towards them, it was maybe because they were not that good.
If people don’t know or understand that the relationship they are in is poison, they won’t be able to get out of it or ask for help. And it will keep destroying them. Ads or campaigns won’t have any impact on their life. They will still think violence is horrible but they will think it has nothing to do with them.
I suppose we have to educate people from a young age. Maybe school is the first place to start, as violence can take root there for many. Teaching kids about respect and differences. Teaching them about what is not allowed, about their body and about the importance of equality. Boys are not better than girls and girls are not better than boys.
But first, we have to teach kids about confidence. In most cases, it’s the lack of confidence that takes people down. Teaching kids that they are important, that they are valued and loved, that they are worth it, beautiful, enough. I think this is crucial and it can change many things in our world these days.
I don’t say that confident people can’t be touched by violence, but they’ll have the resources, the power to face it and say stop to it. Or they’ll know something is wrong in the equation and they’ll be able to talk about it, to raise their voice.
Because, at the end of the day, silence is really the enemy, silence is what allows violence to thrive.
This is an original post from our contributor in France, Marie Kleber.
The image used in this post is attributed to Cyber Magic. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
A year ago, girls, teenagers who wanted an education so they could look forward to a great future, were abducted from their school in Chibok, Nigeria. They were taken away, kidnapped and removed from their family, because they were guilty of having ambitions. All these girls had to defend themselves were books.
What’s left of this horror is parents. Mothers and fathers, grieving for a loss that can never be overcome, hurting from a pain that will never lessen, left to wonder why, and knowing that no answer will ever alleviate their sorrow. Because there is no justification.
A few months ago, Peshawar happened and with it, the world once again, lost its innocence. Over 150 kids massacred, because they were guilty of being the children of their parents. All these kids had to defend themselves were notepads.
What’s left of this horror is parents. Mothers and fathers, grieving for a loss that can never be overcome, hurting from a pain that will never lessen, left to wonder why, and knowing that no answer will alleviate their sorrow. Because there is no justification.
Last week, my home country, France, was the theatre of repeated terrorist attacks. People were massacred because they went to work that day, or decided to do their grocery shopping. A brutal attack, with one side holding weapons, the other pencils.
And the violence continued with news of over 2000 killed in Baga, Nigeria.
What’s left of this horror is parents. Mothers, fathers, grieving for a loss that can never be overcome, hurting from a pain that will never lessen, left to wonder why, and knowing that no answer will ever alleviate their sorrow. Because there is no justification.
Mothers, fathers of this world, our families are being hurt beyond comprehension. Pencils are fighting bombs, words are matched with weapons. These violent attacks are not about gender, race, religion, background, or opinions. They are about pulverizing families. This is a call to unite. We all have a responsibility to do everything in our power to preserve our families and help others do the same.
We are all Chibok girls. We are all Peshawar. We are all Charlie.
How do we, global parents everywhere, teach our children to cherish and preserve their families? How do we unite to show them that violence is never the answer?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Nadege Nicoll. She was born in France but now lives permanently in New Jersey with her family. Nadege also writes a daily blog for moms who need to smile at everyday life. She can be found on Twitter, Facebook and her website www.nadegenicoll.com.
Image creation by author.