From November 25th to December 10th, people from all over the world participated in the 16-day campaign to end Violence Against Women (VAW). The campaign started in 1991 and calls on groups, organisations and individuals to speak up and take action to end VAW. Each year, the campaign begins on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls and ends on International Human Rights Day. Within this period, we also observe International Human Rights Defenders Day (29th November), World Aids Day (1st December) and the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre (6th December).
“From peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women! ” was the theme for this year’s campaign and participants addressed issues ranging from domestic violence to the dangers faced in public spaces. This year also marked a significant growth in the social media presence of the campaign led by the SAY NO- UNiTE team, with the initiation of the Orange Your World actions that encouraged people to wear something orange to show support and solidarity. . A series of interesting social media chats were held to engage people on these platforms in meaningful conversations centered around the issue of VAW.
I took part in the #orangeurworld campaign, sharing facts and opinions about VAW and possible solutions to the problem on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. When I started out, my aim was to raise more awareness about VAW and stimulate a healthy discourse that would engage my social media friends and get more people involved in the campaign.
On one of the 16 days, I caught sight of a tweet on the futility of ‘social media activism’ that does not translate to much in the real world. Unlike other days, I chose to ignore the tweet. For me, it was yet another reminder of the challenges faced when people decide to say or do something about certain ills in our society. To be fair, at one point in my life, I had also questioned the impact one could make by simply using social media platforms to advocate for their chosen causes. Over the last two years, my views have changed and I have come to realise that one can actually make a positive impact using social media platforms. Social media networks are actually used by real people and each account on these sites represents a living being in the ‘real world’. The past 16 days further confirmed this for me.
On Day two of the campaign, a relative and another online acquaintance decided to join me on Instagram by wearing orange and posting selfies too. I was touched by the act and decided to share their photos as a gesture of appreciation for the support. This would lead to more people putting up photos and tagging them all to show support (see slide show below). For me, each notification informing me of a tagged #orangeurworld photo was a success for this campaign.
It meant people were paying attention and were willing to add their voices to the conversation. It meant more people would know of the campaign and its goals due to the ripple effect that the posts had. It meant that the alarming statistics and other facts about VAW would reach more people and perhaps influence more action towards a solution. It meant more people became even more aware of this issue and could understand the gravity of the situation in our world today. It also reminded people that no gesture was too small for the campaign and encouraged them to take action in any way that they can.
The 16 Days campaign has come to an end for this year, but this does not draw the curtains on the daily campaign to end VAW. It does not mean we will go back into our little ‘safe’ corners and wait for November 25th, 2014 to be heard again. These 16 Days were a means of getting more people on board and it was beautiful to see supporters from all over the world going orange for this period. It meant that, for 16 Days, we all focused on a common goal and did everything we could to spread the word and influence action. We were strong activists for 16 days; what next?
We continue what we have started and go beyond these 16 Days. VAW still exists and it is important that we hold tight and forge on until we see significant drops in the statistics; until we see a world where women and girls are not afraid of being attacked, abused, raped molested, discriminated against, married off at an early age, mutilated etc because of their gender. It is our collective responsibility to bring an end to this menace and the theme for this year’s campaign couldn’t have come at a better time.
We all come from homes and it is said that the family is the basic unit of society. I believe this is where the work begins. This is where we teach our sons and daughters the value of life and the importance of respect for the other person and their privacy. This is where we call out and rectify even the subtlest forms of violence in the early stages of our children’s lives. This is where the very people who are found in public spaces should be groomed and nurtured into respectful and respectable human beings. It all starts from the home and extends to the world outside it.
Indifference, like I say, is not an option. We are all affected and should take a stand to end VAW. I would like to thank everyone who showed support during the 16 Days campaign. Your voices were heard and I’m sure we all made a difference in at least one person’s life. I would also like to note that this was not MY campaign. It belongs to us all and I’m glad we all took part in it. Here’s to many more efforts together as a community.
Below is a slide show of photos from people who supported the cause and participated in the #orangeurworld campaign.