by Michali Hyams, a women's rights activist currently on work placement with the Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence.
Through my studies I got the opportunity to do a work placement with the Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence (ICGBV). Each step of the way, I learned and grew from the experiences and wisdom of the wonderful women who worked beside me, who inspired me and who mentored me. Activism and advocating for women’s rights is now my full time job and it’s not a job you can leave at the door at 5pm.
This work can be challenging. It can be draining to actively seek out instances where people are being threatened and attacked, based solely on their gender. It can feel overwhelming at times – reading one story about the bravery of Syrian women risking their lives to defend their hometowns and then another documenting the “price list” for women captured by ISIS. No sooner do you attend a talk on ending violence against women then you see the latest meme promulgating rape culture. It can be exhausting. It is at times like these that I turn to community.
The 16 days of Activism grew out of the first Women Global Leadership Conference, a grassroots movement of 23 women from several countries who decided we needed a united, worldwide campaign lobbying for the right of women to live free from violence. What started in Zimbabwe in 1991 as “16 days on the National Conscience,” led to a global movement of activism. By symbolically linking the International Day Opposing Violence Against Women on November 25th with International Human Rights Day on December 10th, these incredible women were demanding that the world recognize that violence against women was a violation of our human rights. It was no longer acceptable to write women out of top-level decision-making. In the first 2 years of their campaign, the 16 Days activists succeeded in having Women’s Human Rights comprehensively addressed at the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993.
But the campaign did not stop there. 16 days of activism grew and spread to become an annual symbol of global solidarity for people fighting for the rights of women. This work takes place year round, but once a year, we can turn to 16 Days to have our passion re-ignited At a time when women seem to be facing more challenges than ever before, activists can reach out to the global community and know that they are not fighting alone. Women in Ireland pushing for better services for victims of domestic violence can look to 16 days to connect with women in Cameroon organizing workshops in schools to highlight the challenges and discrimination faced by women with disabilities. It is a short period in the calendar when activists can clearly see that they are part of a global movement. 16 days may be a symbolic linking of violence against women and human rights, but the action taken is tangible. It re-galvanizes those working in the field and educates those of us who wish to support them. There is great strength in this community.
This 16 Days, I have the privilege of working with the ICGBV to spread their vision of a world where women and girls can live without fear of violence. My facebook will be filled with the 16 Days Campaigns of organizations like National Women’s Council Ireland and Women’s Aid, working to ensure the safety of women and girls at home in Ireland. I can connect with the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership and see how their campaign has grown. I will check twitter’s #16days and see the volume and variety of events taking place across the world, all united in the goal of ending Violence Against Women. This 16 Days I am excited to be lending my voice to the campaign and joining with activists around the world to end Violence Against Women. The energy it generates will sustain me through the coming year and the ideas shared will inspire and remind me that I do not stand alone. Across the world, young women and girls are having their passion ignited, they will be writing to their public representatives, organizing school campaigns and coming up with new and innovative ways to build a world free from violence against women. There is great strength in this community.