Celebrating 16 days of diverse voices challenging violence against women and girls

Natasha Horsfield | Dec 13, 2018
Womens rights are human rights

Over the last 16 days, women in all their diversity have taken inspiring action around the world to challenge violence against women and girls for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. This international campaign is a significant moment and a powerful platform for different women to make their voices heard within their own communities and internationally.

Beginning on the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women - with action spanning International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, World AIDS Day and International Day of Persons with Disabilities - through to Human Rights Day, the global campaign brings together thousands of activists and advocates to demand the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls.

Globally at least 1 in 3 women will face some form of violence in their lives, meaning violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread human rights violations. The 16 Days of Activism is a chance for women to celebrate their unity and difference, and stand together to end these social injustices from the grassroots through to the international level.

This year Womankind partners have been carrying out a range of diverse activities, in both physical ‘offline’ spaces as well as online. Our Ugandan partner Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP) took part in a live chat  with GBV Prevention Network on Facebook on making institutions, including schools and workplaces, safer for women and girls. In Nepal, our partner Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO) met with UN Special Rapporteur Dubravak Simonovic during her visit to Nepal to highlight the GBV faced by Dalit Women. Also in Kenya, Minority Women in Action (MWA) have taken to Twitter to mark each day of the 16 days by highlighting and raising awareness of different forms of GBV, including intimate partner violence and sexual violence in the workplace. And in Ethiopia our partner Setaweet organised a #WhatSheWore exhibition displaying clothes worn by sexual assault survivors to tackle issues such as survivor blaming. 

What she wore exhibition


A key theme that has emerged from many of our partners’ activities this year is that women’s intersecting identities shape their experiences of discrimination and violence and that feminist activism and movement-building must address all forms of discrimination and oppression through an intersectional approach.

Why are diverse voices an essential part of 16 Days?

Women and girls everywhere are at risk of violence as a result of patriarchy, regardless of their social background, identity or position. However, for many women their experience of violence is more complex, as multiple identities overlap adding layers of discrimination which shape their experiences in different ways.

It is particularly important to identify and acknowledge how these multiple and intersecting forms of  discrimination and oppression shape women’s experiences of violence and abuse on the basis of their disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or caste, amongst others. For example, research by Womankind Worldwide’s Kenyan partner Women Challenged to Challenge, found that women with disabilities are at increased risk of physical, sexual and psychological violence, with sexual violence most common, in particular with women who have learning difficulties. For this reason, the 16 Days is a particularly significant time to highlight the diversity of women’s experiences of violence and their struggle against it, with the campaign providing a platform to ensure a wide range of woman’s voices are heard, which is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the diverse activities of our partners.

Celebrating the diverse voices of Womankind’s partners through 16 days of actions

This diversity has been embraced by many of our partners who are working with lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer (LBTQ) women, women with disabilities, young women and others, in their activities throughout the past 16 days. Our partners Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) and Deaf Women Included (DWI) Zimbabwe joined a Facebook Live panel discussing the need for an intersectional analysis of the ways in which differing identities make women more vulnerable to systematic, institutional and physical exclusion and violence. They also discussed the discrimination marginalised women face in making their voices fully heard.

Touch not my body march


Womankind partner Pakasipiti launched their LBTQ charter, setting out their demands for the rights of LBTQ women in Zimbabwe. In it they recognise the differences and diversities of LBTQ women’s experience through their identities as youth or older women, women with disabilities, people living with HIV, or women seeking asylum.

On International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, we also launched our policy briefing Breaking the Silence: Ending online violence and abuse against women’s rights activists. This report underlines how common online violence and abuse against women’s rights activists is and the silencing effect it has on them, causing them to self-censor or even withdraw completely from online spaces. While the report focuses on online violence and abuse against women’s rights activists generally it also acknowledges that women experience multiple forms of discrimination, violence and abuse online based on their intersecting identities. These findings are supported by separate research by Womankind partner LOOM Nepal which highlighted that 100% of transgender respondents to a survey had been subjected to violence online.

Turning 16 days of action into 365 days of activism

Just 16 days of intensive activism can have incredible impact in challenging violence against women and girls, and the issues of oppression, exclusion, and ultimately patriarchy, which underpin it. To date in this year’s campaign, Womankind has reached over 185,000 people on social media alone. Our partners have carried out dozens of activities to challenge violence against women and girls in every sphere and in all its forms. Hundreds of people have also explored the issue of online violence and abuse against women’s rights activists highlighted in our ‘Breaking the Silence’ briefing. Globally, over the last 27 years the 16 Days campaign has contributed to the recognition of women’s rights as human rights and now mobilises activists from almost 5,500 organisations a year, in up to 186 countries to date.

The 16 Days of Activism is a powerful opportunity for resistance and to push for change, as well as to celebrate the diversity of women’s movements as they come together to confront intersecting forms of discrimination and violence against women. However, we must not limit the struggle to eliminate violence against women and girls to just these 16 days alone. Women around the world experience violence every day: in their homes, the workplace, at school and online. This is why we all need to continue speaking out and taking action to demand an end to all forms of violence against women and girls, and to dismantle the intersecting systems of oppression which support it - 365 days a year! Violence against women is preventable, and by amplifying the diverse voices of women to speak out and call for social change in their communities and at all levels of decision-making all year round, we can see it eliminated.  

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