25 November each year marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence against Women. The campaign is a key period for many feminist and women's rights activists, including members of the MenEngage Alliance who work to prevent and end men's violence against all women and girls, and to dismantle the patriarchal norms, behaviours and systems that sustain it.
The 16 Days campaign begins with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November each year. It runs until 10 December, which is International Human Rights Day. This year’s theme is #LetsEndFemicide.
The 16 Days campaign has its origins in the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991. According to the Global 16 Days Campaign website, “the dates of the campaign were chosen to link violence against women and human rights and to underline that gender-based violence against women is a violation of human rights”.
Other key dates that fall within the 16 Days are:
- Women Human Rights Defenders Day, 29 November
- World AIDS Day, 1 December
- International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3 December
- International Day for Dignified Menstruation, 8 December
- Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, an anti-feminist, anti-women mass murder that took place in Montreal on 6 December 1991.
- Human Rights Day, 10 December
Men, masculinities and the 16 Days Campaign
Today and every day, we call on men and boys to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls: the White Ribbon Campaign pledge. Click here to take the pledge.
For some gender justice organisations and activists, the 16 Days campaign is a key moment to engage men and boys to end male violence against women, girls and people of diverse sexual and gender identities.
The attention the campaign brings to the issue of gender-based violence is an opportunity to raise awareness of how patriarchal ideas, norms and practices are at its roots. The campaign is therefore a key moment to step up activism and political advocacy to dismantle the harmful gender norms that underpin men’s violence against women.
It is an opportunity to bring men and boys into the movement as active and accountable allies against violence and oppression, and to embrace and promote the equitable gender norms needed to end gender-based violence at all levels of society.
According to the campaign’s Action Guide,
‘Engaging with male allies can help elevate the issues facing women and, at the same time, encourage other men to take action and make small changes in their own lives, families and homes. Asking men in positions of power to use their authority to draw attention to the issue of femicide and its precursors, e.g. domestic violence, can help remove stigma and barriers to exposing the occurrence of violence and seeking redress and support.’
Femicide is the killing of women and girls because of their gender. It includes when women and girls are killed by their intimate partner or ex-partner, or by a family member. According to the UN, 45,000 women were victims of femicide at the hands of a husband, partner or other family member in 2021. This figure is the reason why the 16 Days campaign continues to raise femicide as its theme for the second year in a row.
This year’s 16 Days campaign highlights the importance of an intersectional approach, recognising the “heightened risk of femicide that is associated with multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination”. The campaign has produced factsheets with useful information on indigenous femicide, black femicide, femicide in the world of work and femicide due to unsafe abortion.
This year’s 16 Days campaign highlights the importance of an intersectional approach, recognising the “heightened risk of femicide that is associated with multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination”. The campaign has produced fact sheets with useful information on Indigenous Femicide, Black Femicide, Femicide in the World of Work and Unsafe Abortion Femicide.
Bafana Khumalo, co-chair of the MenEngage Alliance, said: “Narratives of gender-based violence and femicide often stop at framing this violence as a women’s issue. It is important to recognise victims and to prioritise and empower survivors. We must also expose the perpetrators of this violence and the gender norms that underpin it. It is vital that we name the fact that the acts of violence against women and girls we are talking about are at the hands of male perpetrators. It is men’s violence against women that we need to address, and the underlying causes based on male power and inequitable gender relations at all levels of society. If men want to be part of the solution, they must step forward as responsible allies of women, girls and people of diverse sexual and gender identities who are leading the work to end gender-based violence and femicide.”
Joni van de Sand, co-director of the MenEngage Alliance, added: “We need to continue to work with individual men and boys so that they can unlearn those norms and behaviours that associate masculinity with power, control and violence, among other harmful traits. But we also need to work at a systemic level on the laws, policies, institutions and social norms and cultures that allow violence against women and girls to take place and, in many contexts, condone and encourage it. Without transforming the patriarchal systems and structures of societies that are at the root, it will be very difficult to eradicate men’s violence.
Addressing violence and harassment in the world of work through ILO 190: Sharing information and calling for strategy
The 16 Days campaign continues its efforts to lobby governments around the world to ratify the 2019 UN Convention on Violence and Harassment. The convention has been processed through the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations agency based in Geneva.
When ratified at the national level, Convention 190 (C190) can continue to hold governments and institutions, such as employers, accountable for protecting, promoting and advancing efforts to eradicate all violence against all women, girls and gender non-conforming people in the world of work.
Want to know more about ILO Convention 190 and its implications for our efforts to eliminate violence against all women, girls and gender non-conforming people in the world of work? Join us for the next session, which will be held as part of the 16 Days of Activism. MenEngage Alliance members and partners will share their experiences in movement building and joint political advocacy with feminist, trade union and labour organisations and movements at national level to advance the ratification of ILO C190 in various contexts and countries. The links between the convention and work will be explored to transform patriarchal masculinities within the private and public sphere (including the workplace).
- DATE: Wednesday, December 7
- TIME: 8am EST | 3pm South Africa | 6:45pm Nepal Click here to see the start time in your location
- DURATION: 2 hours
Activities across the MenEngage Alliance
Are you a member of MenEngage Alliance supporting the 16 Days campaign? Share your project, event, or initiative with firstname.lastname@example.org. We will include relevant initiatives in a round-up of 16 Days actions to dismantle patriarchal masculinities and work with men and boys to end gender-based violence.