Type “women need to” into an Internet search engine. Results such as “women need to be put in their place” and “women need to be controlled” are the inspiration behind a recent United Nations Women advertising campaign. With these and similar search results placed over women’s mouths, the campaign highlights global gender inequality.
“There is a lot of ignorance, a lot of misogyny and a lot of work that needs to be done to dispel these sorts of mindsets,” says Zarin Hamid, coordinator of the gender-based violence program at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University. “It reflects a certain segment of society who believes things like that.”
Every Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, the center coordinates “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,” an international campaign advocating for an end to gender-based violence.
Hamid says the campaign brings activists together for a conversation about gender-based violence during the 16 days, which began on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and end on International Human Rights Day.
“The reason why we link November 25 to December 10 is to show that any kind of act of violence against women is a human rights violation,” says Lucy Vidal, CWGL communications director. “It’s really about raising awareness and helping people understand the connections.”
Organizations and activists from nearly every country participate with activities including rallies, roundtable discussions, film screenings, workshops and fundraisers. Hamid says gender-based violence occurs everywhere, so all communities need to address this issue.
“You can join organizations that already exist that are working on the issues, you can volunteer, you can have discussions,” Hamid says. “Learn about what’s happening here, in your own community and your own country, and what tools you have at your own disposal to raise awareness.”
More than 1 in 3 women and more than 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to a 2011 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey.
Morgan Steele, a senior at Warren Wilson College near Asheville, N.C., was researching programming for The RISE Project, an organization that promotes healthy sex and relationships to ensure a campus free of violence, when she read about the 16 Days Campaign.
The RISE Project is hosting a 16 Days campaign with events including a supplies drive for the local partner violence shelter and workshops about understanding gender-based violence.
“I want to break the silence because in keeping silent, we allow this to keep happening,” Steele says. “I want people to read some fact or come to a workshop and leave saying, ‘I know what this is, I can talk about it and I know how I can work to end it.’”
Ashley Nemiro, co-founder of Mamafrica Designs, a non-profit organization working to help women and children affected by conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), spoke at a 16 Days event at North Carolina State University last week,.
“It started first by educating myself and gaining awareness on many different areas of the world,” Nemiro wrote in an e-mail. “As a woman, I felt that I was given a voice that I was able to use, and therefore, I needed to speak up for the women of DRC, who couldn’t tell their stories.”
Nemiro believes the Western world should stand up for all human rights abuses. She writes that American college students can take action for a better future.
“College students have more advocating power than they think,” Nemiro wrote. “We have seen in the last few years that youth have the ability to create measurable change. It comes down to believing in your ability and speaking up for what you believe in.”
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