What is the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign?
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women's Global Leadership in 1991. Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.
In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly resolved “that violence against women constitutes a violation of the rights and freedoms of women ... that there is a need for a clear and comprehensive definition of violence against women, a clear statement of the rights to be applied to ensure the elimination of all violence against women in all its forms, a commitment by States ... and a commitment by the international community at large to the elimination of violence against women” (Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women).
November 25 was declared International Day Against Violence Against Women at the first Feminist Encuentro for Latin America and the Caribbean held in Bogota, Colombia, July 18-21, 1981. The “feminist encuentros” are conferences of feminists from Latin America who come together every 2-3 years in a different Latin American country in order to exchange experiences and to reflect upon the state of the women’s movement. At that Encuentro women systematically denounced all forms of gender violence from domestic battery to rape and sexual harassment to state violence including torture and abuse of women political prisoners. November 25 was chosen to commemorate the violent assassination of the Mirabal sisters (Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa) on November 25, 1960 by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. “Las Mariposas (the Butterflies),” as they were called, were political activists and highly visible symbols of resistance to Trujillo’s dictatorship. They were repeatedly jailed, along with their husbands, for their revolutionary activities toward democracy and justice. On November 25, 1960 three of the Mirabal sisters, Minerva, Patria and Maria Teresa were murdered along with Rufino de la Cruz by members of Trujillo’s secret police. The Mirabal sisters have become symbols of both popular and feminist resistance. In 1999, the United Nations officially recognized November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including December 1, which is World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
World AIDS Day is observed every year on December 1. This day marks the beginning of an annual campaign designed to encourage public support for and development of programs to prevent the spread of HIV infection and provide education and promote awareness of issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. It was first observed in 1988 after a summit of health ministers from around the world called for a spirit of social tolerance and a greater exchange of information on HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day serves to strengthen the global effort to face the challenges of the AIDS pandemic.
On December 10 peoples and states the world over celebrate the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On this landmark date in contemporary history, the nations of the world joined together to try and bury, once and for all, the specter of genocide raised by the Second World War. This document was one of the first major achievements of the United Nations and provided the basic philosophy for many legally binding international instruments to follow. Organizations and individuals use Human Rights Day as an opportunity to both commemorate the signing of this historical document and to promote the principles that it embodies.
The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by:
- raising awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels
- strengthening local work around violence against women
- establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women
- providing a forum in which organizers can develop and share new and effective strategies
- demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women
- creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women
Since 1991, approximately 1,700 organizations in 130 countries have participated in the 16 Days Campaign!