From shadow into light: women in the streets of Bamako, Mali
From shadow into light: women in the streets of Bamako, Mali. Photo: Vincent Tremeau/Oxfam

What will it take to end violence against women and girls?

20 December, 2013 | Gender Justice

This Oxfam #16Days recap was written by Daniela Rosche, Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Gender Justice for Oxfam Novib (Netherlands), and Chloe Safier, Gender Justice Co-ordinator for Oxfam International.

From November 25th until December 10th, activists and campaigners worldwide have mobilized for the 16 Days of Action against Violence against Women Campaign, to raise awareness about this critical issue and inspire actions to end violence. A recent study from the World Health Organization reports that one in three women throughout the world will experience physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or sexual violence by a non-partner.

WHO graphic: 1 in 3 women affected by sexual violence

During the 16 Days Campaign, Oxfam joined our allies and partners to march, meet, sing, protest and advocate to end violence against women. We believe that violence against women is both caused and perpetuated by poverty and inequality.

Raising awareness around violence against women and girls and its detrimental impact on women’s human rights is greatly needed. This continues to be a fundamental issue for development, human rights, democracy, and peace and a fact of many women’s daily lives. Justice for women remains elusive: many governments and the United Nations have repeatedly condemned violence against women in all its forms, but it continues to exist at epidemic rates. Oxfam remains concerned about the huge gap between agreements that have been made to address this issue, and actual implementation on the ground.

This year, the 16 Days Campaign came at a crucial time, as governments are just starting to think about the commitments they will make in the 2015 development framework (a follow up to the Millennium Development Goals). Oxfam believes that a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment is urgently needed within this framework. We support a specific target to eliminate violence against women, which is needed to facilitate the implementation of the policies that many governments have already agreed to. We also believe it’s necessary to integrate gender into all the targets, because we know that enhancing women's economic and social rights will contribute to ending violence against women.

Oxfam has also proposed a comprehensive international action plan to operationalize existing agreements and provide a much-needed roadmap towards actualizing existing agreements on the ground. Coupled with this, a huge increase in funding is needed:  violence against women continues to be one of the most underfunded women’s rights issues. The delivery of laws and policies to eliminate VAW must be matched by adequate resourcing by donors and governments including the provision of funds in support of women’s rights organizations.

We need the 16 Days of Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women to draw attention to many of these important issues, and many Oxfam affiliates and offices took part in this year’s 16 Days Campaign. Just a few examples of our work include holding an event with a consortium of Belgian women’s rights organizations, six short stories drawn from visits and interviews with our partners, and launching a twitter campaign and la facebook action, which asked supporters to wear orange and join the United Nations Campaign “Say No to Violence”. In India, Oxfam launched the “No More Shhh...” campaign, which encourages people to end the silence around gender based violence and raise their voices against this injustice. The campaign included actions on facebook and twitter, and through the Close the Gap website.

Here are a few examples of the work that’s been happening in countries:

  • Oxfam in Azerbaijan organized a one-day volunteer-led event called “Young Talents and Activists Saying NO to Gender Based Violence hand in hand with CSOs” and worked with volunteers to translate a campaign toolkit into Azerbaijani.
  • Oxfam in Ethiopia organized a learning forum on Women’s Economic Leadership amongst staff from Oxfam and partners.
  • Oxfam in Nigeria planned a stakeholder consultation November 26th on a number of gender justice concerns, including female transformative leadership, political participation, violence against women in politics, and more.
  • Oxfam in Georgia supported a round table discussion on November 26, 2013, with implementing partner Women's Information Center, on women's political participation. On December 11-13, 2013,  the same partner organized a three-day capacity building training for the  gender focal points within local governmental municipalities.
  • In South Africa, Oxfam partnered with POWA (People Opposing Woman Abuse) to celebrate the launch of a Special Edition of the book “Breaking the Silence,” a collection of poems, stories, and essays on ending violence against women.
  • Oxfam in East Africa held a twitter campaign on the account @OxfamEAfrica, where they tweeted on a different VAW related topic each day.

  • Oxfam in Mali Vincent Tremeau’s stunning photographs displayed in public places such as cultural centres, prisons, railways. The photos spread the message of 16 Days and drew attention to the issue of violence against women.

  • Oxfam in Armenia launched the “16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence” on November 25 by participating in a public event at UN Armenia House, on the theme “Inspiring Women for Self-Empowerment, Confidence and Personal Growth.” Oxfam in Armenia also established a “Youth for Justice” online group, which led a campaign during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.
  • Oxfam in Uganda held an event in the Oxfam office that focused on the role that power plays in relationships, which was attended staff, partners and a team of students from Makerere University and Uganda Christian University, and Mukono under the leadership of YADEN, an Oxfam partner organization that majorly engages the youth.
  • The Control Arms Campaign released a blog written by partners from WILPF and Reaching Critical Will on GBV in the Arms Trade Treaty, and launched a graphic related to landmark gender provision in ATT on the Control Arms Facebook page.

What do you think?

What do you think -- can we make headway in ending violence against women in 2014? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

More resources about ending violence against women

Download: Ending Violence Against Women: An Oxfam Guide

New Oxfam guidelines: Minimum Standards for Gender in Emergencies

More publications on Violence Against Women in Emergencies (Oxfam GB)

Check out our Women and gender equality Pinterest board

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