16 Days of Activism: Remembering Our Roots, Looking Forward

27th November 2014 -

By Edna Aquino

This week marks the beginning of the yearly commemoration of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence - a global campaign initiated and led by women's groups and movements in many parts of the world which put the spotlight on this pandemic. I have been a part of this campaign since its beginnings and through the lenses it has given me on  why women are being targeted and subjected to the most inhuman manifestations of oppression, my feminist outlook has been sharpened and my activism for women's rights became an integral part of who I am.  I am now a 62 year old feminist and human rights activist and on the road to slowing down while casting my vision to new fields where I can still be useful to my causes within my given limitations.

The reflection below from Charlotte Bunch and Roxanna Carrillo - two of the founders of this campaign - deserves everyone's attention.  They pay tribute to the enormous contributions of women who have fought hard and still are - in turning VAW into a key global agenda and reminding us of the tasks ahead. They speak for me and to countless women who started the movement against VAW.  I thank Charlotte and Roxanna for this reminder and for the honour they have bestowed upon the real force behind this enduring, lifetime project.  It gives me the opportunity to reflect on the need to take stock of the fact that while the gains and the breakthroughs we've achieved as a global movement have been overwhelming in so many fronts, the challenges ahead are equally enormous.  There is so much to learn and unlearn about our work in this field: we need more theorising; new or renewed strategies; new formations and new alliances need to be forged; and trusting and nurturing the next generations of womens rights activists, of feminists.  The next generation can not only sustain the work that has been started but will, in fact, take what we've accomplished to greater heights.  These are but a few of our pressing challenges.  


THE FIRE BEHIND THE ORANGE: NOVEMBER 25TH, By Charlotte Bunch and Roxanna Carrillo

November 25th we celebrate another milestone in the recognition of Violence Against Women as a major global concern. The Empire State Building, the United Nations Headquarters and Times Square in New York are lit up in orange for International Day Against Violence Against Women - the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign. This “orange your neighborhood” ‪#‎OrangeUrHood initiative from UN Women and the Secretary General’s UNite Campaign is used to “symbolize a brighter future without violence.” For us, the “orange” comes from the fire ignited by the many women’s groups dedicated to combatting violence against women around the world.

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This UN initiative must be kept closely linked to civil society, where work against violence against women has its origins, and on whose efforts it still depends. The 16 Days began in 1991 in many parts of the world simultaneously, as an NGO led campaign to highlight violence against women as a human rights issue. Since then, it has grown steadily and is owned by many – women’s groups, NGOs, governments, and international organizations like the UN. This is a good thing and the more allies the better. But such work relies on the day-to-day commitment of women’s organizations everywhere. Research has shown that the presence of a strong women’s movement is the most important factor in changing policies around violence against women.

One look at today’s New York Times is an ever present reminder of how much violence still pervades women’s lives – from another report of fraternity rapes on US college campuses, to the Turkish President’s statement that women shouldn’t be considered equals, to the exclusion of women from peace efforts in Afghanistan, to the UN report on the increase in trafficking of children, 70% of whom are girls.

So today as we celebrate added “illumination” of this issue, let us remember that this work has never been more urgent. This increased attention to violence against women must result in an upsurge of support for those who are doing the heavy lifting to remove this scourge from our communities.

For more information about the history and NGO coordination of the 16 Days Campaign and women’s activities around the world this year, go to http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu/ and @16DaysCampaign and ‪#‎16Days