On the 25-th of November started the 16 days of activism Campaign which is directed to eliminate gender based violence against women and girls all over the world.  A 16-day message aimed to speak out for women’s rights and make their voice heard where it has been silenced. This Campaign itself is rather imperative and important even nowadays when most of the people think that gender discrimination does not exist in the fast developing world of tolerance, “modern” thinking and unbiased treatment towards women and girls. But, unfortunately, the reality is different:

  • 1 of every 3 women experiencing domestic violence around the world is also subjected to sexual assault.
  • In the first semester of 2011 there were 10 registered legal cases on trafficking in Armenia; 8 are related to sexual trafficking of women.
  • In Armenia, women are still getting abortions based on gender choice (favoring male fetuses over female). The gender ratio has reached a scandalous.
  • In Armenia, we have 131 deputies and only 11 among them are women.
  • Poverty strikes women the most; globally 70% among the poorest are women.
  • In Armenia, we have 18 ministers; among them only 2 are women.
  • In the world, 95% of victims of domestic violence are women.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. In 1991, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership convened the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute (WGLI). Women and men participants came from different countries in all of the world’s regions and were drawn from a 23 different fields – lawyers, policymakers, teachers, health care workers, researchers, journalists, and activists.

As one strategy to build awareness about gender-based violence and facilitate networking among women leaders working in this area, the WGLI participants established the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign, choosing to symbolically link November 25th (International Day against Violence against Women) and December 10th (International Human Rights Day).

The days in between also hold significance. November 29th is International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, December 1st is World AIDS Day, December 5th is International Volunteer Day, and December 6th is the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, and observed in Canada as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women.

Each year there is an official theme. This year’s theme, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women!” puts the spotlight on militarism and its role in perpetuating violence against women and girls. “The violence we encounter is often profoundly influenced by national, regional, and international policies and practices, and challenges us to act in solidarity to promote an end to militarism and violence against women,” says Dr. Radhika Balakrishnan, Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership; the coordinator of the 16 Days Campaign.

The campaign works in many different ways to combat gender violence, including by raising awareness about gender violence as a human rights issue at local, national, regional and international levels, creating solidarity among local anti gender-violence groups, making the link between gender violence and human rights violation clear, and through all of these actions, working to pressure governments into taking tangible steps to eliminate gender violence. The campaign wishes to change and resolve the issue through education and awareness.

Since 1991, the annual 16 Days Campaign has mobilized more than 3,700 organizations in 164 countries to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of the multiple forms of violence women face. All over the world the 16 Days Campaign has grown into a powerful platform to educate the public and governments about violence against women and human rights.

Nieri Avanessian
Nelly Paitian