Commemorating the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-based Violence

Danielle Roth | November 16, 2023

November 25th marks the launch of the global 16 Days of Activism to end Gender-based Violence (GBV). This global event, held every year since 1991, provides space and voice for women and girls around world, their families and the communities that support them, to shine a light on the pandemic of violence against women and girls globally. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly one in three women will survive an incident of GBV in their lifetime. Adolescent girls face additional risks as they navigate school spaces, intimate relationships, are exposed to harmful traditional practices and risk trafficking and online harassment and bullying. Women and girls face significant family violence and, in 2021, 45,000 women and girls worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member. This equates to five women and girls who die at the hands of their families every hour. 

Despite these harrowing statistics, the human rights of women and girls were not enshrined into international law until relatively recently at the United Nation’s first Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1979. GBV was not officially recognized as a violation of human rights until almost 15 years later, in 1992. Indeed, the fact that GBV statistics remain alarmingly high underscores the importance of the 16 Days of Activism to continue to center the voices of women and girls who are most affected and raise collective consciousness and move governments and international bodies to act.

The scourge of violence against women and girls was also highlighted as recently as this past September by Pope Francis himself who, speaking to organizers of a campaign to end violence against women said, “Domestic violence is a poisonous weed that plagues our society and must be torn out at the root.”

At CWS, we are guided by our vision to ensure that everyone has food, voice and a safe place to call home. Within that vision, we center gender justice. CWS works to ensure safety for women and girls in all aspects of its programming and to transform unequal gender relations, structures, norms and values that continue to deny women and girls access to their basic human rights. As a new staff at CWS, I’ve been inspired by our commitment to serve women and girls affected by violence and to empower women and girls with greater opportunities. In Egypt, we are collaborating with StARS, a refugee-led organization that is working on locally-led GBV response by developing specialized GBV services with refugee-led community-based organizations, and in Moldova we are working with local partner Memoria to serve Ukrainian refugees and Moldovan GBV survivors to access life-saving medical and psychosocial support. Our work on gender justice doesn’t end there, we are helping women to build resilience through sustainable vegetable farming and gender equality training in Tanzania, and in Paraguay, we are working with indigenous women to increase their civic participation in climate change action.

While the 16 Days of Activism is a time to call out, to name, a problem that often lurks in the shadows, it can also be a moment of reflection for all of us. In the ecumenical tradition of finding the values that unite us, may these 16 days of activism inspire CWS partners to consider how we can collectively do more to create a world where women and girls are free from violence, live in dignity and have the freedom to claim their rights.

Danielle Roth is CWS’ Gender Based Violence Senior Specialist. You can learn more about the work CWS does with women and children here.