Real-World Things You Can Do During 16 Days of Activism

November 25th begins 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. We now have 16 days to speak up in a world that is readier to listen than ever before.

Gender-based violence has many faces and is experienced in many contexts with varying degrees of severity.

It happens most mornings to a garment worker in Lesotho who is coerced into sex with the security guard in order to pass through the factory gates. It happened to Jyoti Singh Pandey, the South Delhi student raped and tortured on a moving bus in 2012, later dying from her injuries. It is still happening to a 12-year-old in Niger living in fear of a man twice her age to whom she is married against her will.

While many examples are graphic and extreme, gender-based violence can also be subtle and pervasive.

It’s there in the story of the woman choosing a longer walk home from work to avoid the catcaller loitering near her apartment. It haunts the girl who panics after saying “no” to a guy who perceives her refusal as ‘playing hard to get.’ It includes the countless women who have felt forced to compromise their integrity or moral compass to advance their careers, whether on the big screen, in the boardroom, or on Capitol Hill.

As a global community, we are constantly learning about beliefs and behaviors that contribute to gender-based violence. At one point in time, the kind of behavior that would trigger the response ‘boys will be boys’ was considered acceptable; now, it is a societal norm we are unwilling to tolerate.

16 Days of Activism started as an initiative of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University and has grown into a global movement. Iconic buildings including the Parliament in Bangladesh, the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City, Table Mountain in Cape Town, and the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai will all be illuminated in orange to express their solidarity.

You can share the 16 Days of Activism campaign with your digital community through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But we need more than hashtags. Outside of the digital sphere, here are real-world things you can do to make a difference during 16 Days of Activism 2018:

Update your wardrobe. Clothes that are no longer needed in your life could make a huge difference in someone else’s. Several organizations exist to support women in achieving economic independence, break the cycle of poverty, and strengthen communities. Dress for Success has drop-off locations across the world, or you could search for a local organization accepting donations.

Support migrant women affected by the border crisis. Thousands of immigrants are deeply impacted by the border crisis exacerbated so cruelly by American officials. Organizations providing hospitality to new immigrants, asylum seekers and reunited families that have been separated in recent months welcome your support. Annunciation House, a trusted long time shelter in El Paso, Texas, is specifically requesting donations that will enable them to purchase feminine hygiene products for the hundreds of girls and women lucky enough to rest briefly and find human kindness there.

If you’re in the USA, call your members of Congress. The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 is set to run out of funding again, on December 7th. There was a major debate in Congress over the last reauthorization in 2013 – primarily over a provision to extend the law’s coverage to Native American women, immigrants, and LGBTQ women. It was ultimately given new life and signed by President Obama, but 138 Republican members of Congress voted against the reauthorization. Call your Representative and urge them to fight for a stronger VAWA.

Donate. There are literally thousands of organizations, locally, nationally, and globally, that are doing vital work to help stop gender-based violence. For example, WomenStrong International works with its partner in Kenya to support Community Action Groups against gender-based violence. In the US, the National Network to End Domestic Violence has served as a voice for millions of women, men, and children who have endured abuse for more than 25 years. All of these organizations depend on the support of people like you and me to keep their doors open.

Make time to make the difference. Giving your time is one of the most meaningful ways to impact the world. You can receive training to support someone in crisis with programs such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline. You can support safe reproductive health services by volunteering for Planned Parenthood, or you could get involved in the movement to end street harassment by getting involved with your local Hollaback chapter.

WomenStrong learns from local Community Action Group in Kisumu, Kenya

How You Can Help End Violence Against Women

Anyone who’s been watching the news lately is finding it impossible to ignore a very painful, destructive reality: one in three women worldwide face gender-based violence at some point in their lives.

Based on what CARE has seen over almost 75 years working with women and girls in the world’s most vulnerable communities, we know that in some contexts – especially humanitarian crises – that staggering number is even higher.

In emergency contexts where social networks are lost or strained, women and girls too often become targets of violence and abuse – like sexual violence as a weapon of war, exploitation and harassment as refugees, domestic violence and abuse,  and child marriage in the upheaval of displacement.  And when it comes to the assistance that impacts them, they are frequently kept out of the decision-making process.

But we also know that’s not the end of the story. While women and girls disproportionately face violence, they also are often the key to their families’ survival. We’ve seen over and over that in emergencies, women embody strength,  perseverance, and resilience. Faced with the horrors of war or the devastation of natural disaster, women hold families and communities together, carrying children to safety and keeping them fed, and rebuilding shattered lives as refugees in a new land if they are unable to return home.

Women are also their own best advocates. Women and girls everywhere are fighting for safety, opportunity, and a say in their futures. This year, in preparation for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, CARE Action (CARE’s advocacy arm) is standing with the women and girls who are championing their own rights and keeping their communities together in the face of terrible atrocities, and calling special attention to gender-based violence in emergencies.

From November 25th (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to December 10th (Human Rights Day), CARE Action will be taking part in this global campaign that brings together people across hundreds of organizations and nearly every country in the world, all with one mission – to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence everywhere. We’re working together, stepping up advocacy efforts and promoting policies to eradicate pervasive and rampant violence against women including domestic violence, rape and other forms of sexual assault, trafficking, psychological abuse, honor killings, child and forced marriage and pervasive gender-based harassment.

The statistics surrounding GBV are staggering and we’ll be highlighting them throughout the 16 Days:

  • At least one in three women and one in five men worldwide will experience GBV
  • As many as 35 percent of women have experienced intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lives
  • At least one in three women will be beaten, raped or otherwise abused and in most cases, the abuser is part of her family
  • 15 million girls will be married before the age of 18 every year

CARE will also be amplifying stories of the grit and resilience of women like Gambo and Hadja, who fled extreme violence in Northern Nigeria and took refuge in Niger with nothing but the clothes on their backs. With a few blankets, some netting and basic supplies, they’re making a life for themselves and their children. Or women like Stépha Rouichi, Advocacy Manager for CARE DRC who wrote about the under-staffed health centers in the DRC’s Kasai province, where a recent survey indicates that more than 1,400 survivors of sexual violence – mostly between the ages of 12 and 17 years old – have accessed services in the past year.

Finally, we’ll be urging action through the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), recently introduced in the U.S. Senate. This legislation would strengthen U.S. leadership and empower women and girls in the fight against gender-based violence. There’s so much we all can do to help stop the injustice. Supporting IVAWA is one of them.

To join us in our campaign and lend your voice…

  1. Follow CARE Action on Facebook and Twitter
  2. Check out
  3. If you’re in the US, sign our petition and share using the hashtag #16Days…
  4. …and tag your Members of Congress on Facebook and Twitter and urge them to support and pass IVAWA

The scourge of gender-based violence is global problem that we all can and must help to solve. 16 Days of Activism is an opportunity to educate yourself, educate your communities, and take meaningful action. Join us!

Why you should care about GamerGate

And what it means for global violence against girls and women.

Shortly after publishing, someone under the name "Gaimerg8," posted what they claimed was her home address, also known as “doxxing”.
Shortly after publishing, someone under the name “Gaimerg8,” posted what they claimed was her home address, also known as “doxxing”.

Last week, actress and gamer Felicia Day posted an entry on her blog – “Crossing the Street” –to share her concerns that an online gaming campaign has made her fearful to engage with a culture she truly enjoys. Knowing full well that her words could (and now have) result in an outpour of angry, abusive, and downright vicious attacks, Day’s post has caught attention from the media struggling to understand the ugly phenomenon known as GamerGate – an online movement of gamers openly harassing female bloggers, developers, and critics with violent threats of rape and death. Yes, as women speak out against the violence, victimization, and inequality in video games, the response has been actual violence, harassment, and real threats to their safety.

Grand Theft Auto 5: @GTAForums
Grand Theft Auto 5, Credit: GTAForums

The objectification of women in entertainment is nothing new. One needn’t look very far to see over-sexualized, scantily clad women being dominated by men. Flip through the closest magazine or look at the nearest billboard. Within the gaming culture, women have expressed increasing concern from the way female gamers are treated, to the actual representation of women in games and the amount of gratuitous violence and commodification of female characters. In the popular action-adventure game series, Grand Theft Auto, male characters are free to not only engage in sexual encounters with prostitutes, but also kill them and take their money back. In September, Japanese developers announced a new head-mounted display game that includes a pair of realistic fake breasts that players can grip as they look at a virtual image of a girl whom they can sexually assault. Yet, those who feel uncomfortable with the alarming direction games are headed are not only being shut out of the conversation, they are now being physically threatened. Ironic, isn’t it?

As we grapple with the reality that violence against women, sexual assault, and the objectification of women’s bodies continues to be deemed as an appropriate and acceptable form of “entertainment” in Western countries, the latest conversation around GamerGate highlights a global reality: physical, sexual, and emotional violence threatens every single girl and woman, every single day of her life. According the latest report from UNICEF, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence every 10 minutes somewhere in the world. Yet, these deaths represent only the most extreme assaults in a long continuum of violence faced by girls on a daily basis, usually at the hands of those closest to them.

Credit: Dolce&Gabana
Credit: Dolce&Gabana

Is this the world we want our girls to grow up in? A world where 1 in 4 women is physically or sexually abused during her pregnancy? A world where more than 39,000 girls under the age of 18 experience early or forced marriage? A world where 98 percent of the 4.5 million forced into sexual exploitation are girls and women? A world where two young girls in search of a toilet can result in brutal gang rape and death? A world where violence is the second leading cause of death among adolescent girls globally?

Our girls deserve a world where they can transition into womanhood without sexuality and gender roles dominating and defining the trajectory of their lives.

For many girls, their first experience of sexual intercourse is unwanted or coerced. Those married as young brides face especially high risks of physical, emotional, and sexual violence along with limited to no personal freedom or decision-making power. The continued lowered status of girls in our global society, coupled with the tendency of men and boys to exert power, are key factors in the high rates of violence experienced by adolescent girls. And when these realities carry into adulthood, those patterns of violence and limitations become a burden for every generation.

Next month the world will commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – a reminder that violence against women is a human rights violation that impedes global progress in many areas, including poverty combating HIV/AIDS, and peace and security, as well as a call for action. So what can we do? Here are some ideas:

  • Raise awareness: Participate in Orange Day – November 25th – by wearing something orange to highlight the calls for the eradication of violence against women. You can submit a photo online with the message, “I wear orange because…”
  • Continue the movement: Join ongoing campaigns like VDAY and ManUp working to engage youth, advance gender equality, and transform communities, nations, and the world.
  • Raise your voice: Look for public rallies and events, such as “Take Back the Night”, raise money for community-based rape crisis centers or women’s shelters, or organize a fundraiser to benefit those working to end all forms of gender violence.
  • Educate yourself: Attend programs, take classes, watch films, and read articles and books about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence. Educate yourself and others!
  • Engage more than just girls and women: Check out organizations like MenEngage who work with men and boys to promote gender equality.

We have the ability to end violence against girls and women, not overnight, but in a generation. To do it, we need a global shift in the attitudes towards women, and that means teaching boys and men to challenge and change attitudes around violence and sexism. We must continue to educate and work with young boys and girls to promote respectful relationships and gender equality. And we must not wait for an annual observance to begin. The time to end violence against girls and women is NOW.

I am Angry – And You Should be Too.

November 25th marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. There is only one thing wrong about that – the fact that we have a need for such a day. It makes me angry.

Infographic by WHO

I am angry, because according to the World Health Organization, 35% of women and girls around the world will experience intimate partner or non-partner violence in their lifetime. WHO is calling this ‘a global health problem of epidemic proportions’. I am angry because in the US, every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted – and nine out of ten victims are women. I am angry because in India, women and girls have a bulls-eye on their backs whenever they step outside their homes – and too often also within their homes. I am angry because there is an endless number of such examples, from all over the world. While the reasons behind violence against women and girls, as well as the form that such violence takes, vary between countries, one thing is common to all women and girls regardless of location:

No woman or girl is immune to this epidemic of violence.

The situation of my home country, Finland, also makes me angry. According to Naisten Linja (“Women’s Line”), an organization that works to prevent violence against women and girls and to help victims of such violence, over 40% of Finnish girls and women above the age of 15 have faced physical or sexual violence or have been threatened with violence. I’m angry because the risk for Finnish women to face domestic violence is twice the average of the European Union. Another thing that makes me angry is the backlash that this Day causes every year: what about men? Isn’t violence against men as important, why are there so many resources directed towards eliminating violence against women – why aren’t men getting the same attention? Of course the violence men and boys experience is equally important – but more often than not, it is not a case of gender-based violence. Gender-based violence and discrimination are issues that stem from the fundamental belief that the female sex is of lesser value, of lesser importance, than the male. Gender-based violence tells women and girls:

You are not worthy – you are weaker, less important, meaningless, powerless.

Photo by Shareef Sarhan; courtesy of UN Women

Gender-based violence doesn’t just cause physical pain and damage – it breaks, destroys, shames, violates, dehumanizes. Men might be over-represented as, for example, victims of gun violence – but this is not necessarily an example of gender-based violence. Almost always, the victim of domestic and sexual violence is a girl or a woman, and females across cultures experience more gender-based discrimination and inequality than males. It is important to recognize these distinctions, so that we can pinpoint the fundamental reasons behind violence against women and girls properly and therefore also respond to them with the right approaches and tools.

We all should be infuriated because images of violated and dominated bodies of women are used to sell everything from cars to shoes to men’s suits and perfumes. We should be livid because of what Google’s search engine reveals about the attitudes towards women and girls. We should feel enraged over the fact that when media reports rape cases, what the victim was wearing or whether she had been drinking is still often mentioned in the opening paragraph. Finns should be furious over the fact that the number of reported rapes in Finland has nearly doubled in the past ten years. We should be fuming over the fact that there are countries where rape victims are forced to marry their rapists, and countries where a husband can’t rape his wife because under the law, marriage is considered to equal “consent”. We should be enraged for the fact that freedom of speech is used as a justification for spreading images of bruised, battered and violated bodies of women and girls in social media, with captions such as “next time she’ll stay in the kitchen” – but images of breastfeeding mothers get censored, because they are considered offensive. Violence against women is a global phenomenon – an epidemic – that has become a tool for power, a tactic for war, a marketing strategy, form of entertainment, punch line of a joke. Those are reasons for being enraged, furious, angry, not only today, but every single day. Violence against women is a human rights violation, and there is never, ever any justification or excuse for it. November 25th also started a global campaign of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, and there is plenty of work to be done. This issue touches us all – based on statistics, it is likely that we all know a woman or a girl who has faced violence – or that we ourselves are those victims.

Orange Your World in 16 days - Image courtesy of UN Women
Orange Your World in 16 days – Image courtesy of UN Women

I am infuriated, I am enraged – but I won’t take out that anger by attacking someone else, I won’t threaten or verbally abuse people online, I won’t punch anyone, and I won’t forcefully take something that isn’t mine. Instead, I will gather and harness that anger, and try to turn it into fuel for something positive. I will try to turn it into action, and from there into change. Will you do that too?

A version of this article was originally published in Finnish by Kepa, an umbrella organization for Finnish civil society organizations working on global development issues. 

Highlighting: CODE RED for Gender Justice, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women


Photo courtesy of CODE RED for Gender Justice facebook page

CODE RED for Gender Justice is a Caribbean feminist activist collective, raising awareness and providing opportunities for regional collaboration on issues of gender justice.

Our activities aim to bring a plurality of critical feminist voices to everything from politics and economics to gender and sexualities in our global world. Source

Whether writing about mainstream news stories through a feminist lens or sharing inspiring stories of women and girls around the world, CODE RED carves out a space for Caribbean feminists in the dialogue and activism surrounding gender equality.

Beginning as a student organization at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados; CODE RED now has an international reach.  The organization’s work includes an annual Symposium to nurture emerging feminist scholars and activists from the Caribbean, and the creation of the CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network working towards gender equity and women’s rights.

Issues that receive critical analysis from the CODE RED writers include sexism and sexual violence in society, news media and pop culture.  A recent article “Kick in She Back Door: Violence Against Women Takes Road March” takes on rape culture perpetuated through music and the larger picture of sex, gender, power and violence in heterosexual relationships.

As The International Day to End Violence Against Women comes to a close for this year, organizations like CODE RED For Gender remind us that Girls Globe is part of a much larger global network of organizations, each working in our own way to change the world for the better for women and girls.

To keep up to date on the work of CODE RED feminists, follow them on twitter and like their facebook page!


7 in 10 women and girls are victims of violence

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Around the world people are coming together to take a stand and say NO to violence against women. In Malmö, Sweden, a peaceful protest against violence against women was organized by several organizations active in the region to support women who have been victims to domestic and gender-based violence.

I was invited to speak on behalf of Girls’ Globe, and here is what I had to say on this day:


Violence against women is a violation of women’s human rights.

It is one of the world’s most neglected public health issues, and one of the world’s largest socioeconomic problems. And violence against women is the strongest form of discrimination against women.

According to UN Women, 7 out of 10 women and girls are victims of violence sometime in their lifetime.

And violence occurs in many different forms.

It is estimated that a majority of the world’s women will be a violated by a partner some time during their lives. Domestic violence often takes place behind closed doors and it is difficult for society to pin down, and it becomes even more difficult when it is not considered to be a crime. Today, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not a crime and therefore not punishable. This violence becomes even more dangerous when there are weapons in the home, as these weapons increase the risk that women and children are threatened, injured and even killed. Many legal reforms are required to criminalize domestic violence and stop the spread of weapons that pose a danger to women and children.

Of the cases of abuse against women in Sweden and many other countries is usually the perpetrator known by the victim, and very often in a close relationship. Furthermore, there is a great number of unreported cases as many do not report because of fear, stigma or shame.

Violence against women is also used in wars and conflicts as a tactic of war.

Last week I met with a surgeon who has been working in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where war has raged for almost 20 years. He told me that every morning when he came to the clinic where he worked, there was around 20 women waiting to get help after being raped during the previous night. Some of these women were raped with weapons such as knives and guns. The brutal violence against women occurring in eastern Congo is a war tactic. Sexual violence has been recognized by the UN as a strategy in war that occurs in many conflicts around the world. It is a way to paralyze and destroy resistance groups, a method of producing fear in an entire community. Today, it can be more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in war and conflict. Sexual violence is a major barrier to women’s security and participation in peace processes. Even when the conflict ends sexual violence continues to occur at very high rates.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is called the rape capital of the world and is one of the most dangerous places to be a woman.

Violence is also used by states and state actors to achieve political goals, where the perpetrators believe they can use violence with impunity.

An example of this is how women demonstrating during Egypt’s revolution, were subjected to “virginity tests” by the military as a way to scare women and expose them to stigmatization. In many countries the police becomes an additional threat to women. There are many examples where the police chooses not to intervene because they do not believe that violence against women is an offense.

In many parts of the world women are systematically discriminated against in society. Girls are not allowed the same education as boys, they may not have the same access to health care and food, and most often just because they are girls. In some parts of the world women suffer acid attacks, honor violence, or life-threatening genital mutilation because of the invisible rules that govern in society.

In many parts of the world girls do not dare to go to school because they are afraid of being exposed to violence. In some countries, sexual violence is used by teachers in exchange for good grades. In Togo 16 percent of school children say that a teacher has done a classmate pregnant. And 75 percent of school children in Ghana say that teachers are the main cause of violence in schools. Because of the long road that girls have to go to school early in the morning and the long way home in the evening is a great risk that they become vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence along the way. This increases the discrimination against girls in many parts of the world. When girls do not have the opportunity to go to school, it contributes to poverty and it paralyzes society.

I met another surgeon from Uganda. He is working to repair the girls and women who have suffered obstructed labor as they do not have access to any form of maternal or emergency obstetric care. These women develop a fistula, an internal injury that leaves women incontinent. The leak urine and feces, and usually have lost their child in the prolonged labor. Even though this horrifying injury can be prevented with access to care, and although the damage can be repaired, most women do not receive help. They are often ostracized from their family, ostracized by society and become victims of violence and discrimination within and outside the home just because they have become physically disabled and they smell bad.

Every two minutes a woman dies in the world during pregnancy and childbirth. The majority of these deaths can be prevented if women were given access to care in time. For every woman who dies, there are 20 others who are so severely injured that they will not be able to live their lives as prior to the pregnancy.

In Pakistan, there is a saying:

“To raise a daughter is like watering a flower in your neighbor’s garden.”

Girls are considered a burden on the family and a family should not rejoice when having a daughter.

The desire to have a son, and the idea that a boy is worth more than a girl, leads to an incredible amount of problems in society. In India it is illegal for a doctor or nurse to tell expectant parents the sex of the fetus. This is because couples choose to do selective abortion of girls, as the desire to have a son is so strong. In some parts of South Asia, this has led to the existence of a deficit of girls. The deficit of women leads to an incredible number of social problems. The sex trade is flourishing in Mumbai and trafficking across borders continues to grow.

Not to prioritize women in society is a form of violence against women’s human rights. If they are not regarded as equal citizens, their lives will not be worth saving and the fact that they are beaten, mentally abused, discriminated, raped and devalued will never be noticed.

Social norms, culture or tradition can not continue to be a defense of the violence that occurs against women.

Violence against women is not just a weapon used by men to show power, but entire communities enhance and constitute violence against women, as perpetrators are not brought to justice, as women who are victims of violence are also exposed to shame and guilt, and as the essential care a woman needs in her life is not given to her.

What if we could live in a world where a girl is worth as much as a boy

– where she receives an education, has the mobility, can own assets and land, and has access to the same care as boys and men. What if we could live in a world where women are aware of their human rights and where women were always valued as highly as men.

We all, women and men, have to smash preconceptions with facts. We need to educate politicians, police, hospital staff, and all other social actors so that they can respond to abused women in a positive way. We need to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. We must stand together FOR women in our country and around the world.

We shape our society and we shape our world!

Let’s get out of our comfort zones and take responsibility for the society we are building. Let’s stand up against violence against women. Together we can stop it!


How are you saying NO to violence against women?

Want to read more? Here are a few links:

These are the organizations behind the event in Malmö today: