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The history behind the 16 days of activism

The history behind the 16 days of activism


It’s the second of the 16 days of activism and with nothing in particular to celebrate, I figured it was time for a little bit of history.

The whole campaign started in 1991, developing out of the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. While initially championed by activists, lawyers, policymakers, teachers, health care workers, researchers, journalists and activists, the event has grown and everyone has their own way of celebrating.

This can be seen with the individual themes people adopt when it comes around to this time of year. This year, UN Women for example are running their campaigns with the theme “Orange your neighbourhood” as a call for the need for collective realisation and action to eliminate violence against women. Other organisations are either adapting of or translating the global theme of “Demanding an end to Gender-Based Violence and Militarism”.

I love the idea of both. Research, time and change have shown that it takes far more than one or two people saying a thing or two about ending violence. Communities, in all their forms, require some form of change or adaptation.

How we speak to one another, how we resolve conflicts in all their forms and how we learn or change our attitudes to disagreements, compromise and consensus; all these things contribute to ending violence in our homes, communities and world.

Even how we think about security on a larger scale, the role of our peacekeepers, police and military; so much needs to change and it’s not going to happen overnight. We, in all our diversities, need to start somewhere.

Sometimes it’s about looking at our interests and capacities. Some organisations even tend to celebrate on specific days due to the root of their work. The Pacific Disability Forum, I believe, are specifically earmarking the International Day of Disabled Persons on the third of December and commemorating it with the release of a toolkit aimed at addressing violence.

Other organisations may pick the International day of Volunteerism, or Abolition of Slavery or World AIDS Day.

Personally, I’m looking most forward to December 10, World Human Rights Day, which usually sees a more public display to wrap up the 16 Days campaign.

Alongside all the different days that appeal to the range of issues, there’s one thing in particular I want to call attend to. The 16 Days sandwich.

At the beginning there’s November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and December, and on December 10, you have World Human Rights Day. These days and their role stand to remind society of the reality that used to fall on deaf ears; violence against women is a violation of their human rights.

Everyone deserves a life free of violence and it’s a shame we still have to say that.

So wherever we start, it’s a start nonetheless.

Sure, if you haven’t heard of the 16 Days until now, or you’ve put off looking it up or celebrating it in your own way, today is as good a day as any.


About Shelvin Singh

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