By Charlotte Bunch and Roxanna Carrillo
This November 25th we celebrated another milestone in the recognition of Violence Against Women as a major global concern. The Empire State Building, the United Nations Headquarters and Times Square in New York are lit up in orange for International Day Against Violence Against Women – the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. This “orange your neighborhood” #OrangeUrHood initiative from UN Women and the Secretary General’s Say NO UNiTe Campaign is used to “symbolize a brighter future without violence.” For us, the “orange” comes from the fire ignited by the many women’s groups dedicated to combating violence against women around the world.
This UN initiative must be kept closely linked to civil society, where work against violence against women has its origins, and on whose efforts it still depends. The 16 Days began in 1991 in many parts of the world simultaneously, as an NGO led campaign to highlight violence against women as a human rights issue. Since then, it has grown steadily and is owned by many – women’s groups, NGOs, governments, and international organizations like the UN. This is a good thing and the more allies the better. But such work relies on the day-to-day commitment of women’s organizations everywhere. Research has shown that the presence of a strong women’s movement is the most important factor in changing policies around violence against women.
One look at today’s New York Times is an ever present reminder of how much violence still pervades women’s lives – from another report of fraternity rapes on US college campuses, to the Turkish President’s statement that women shouldn’t be considered equals, to the exclusion of women from peace efforts in Afghanistan, to the UN report on the increase in trafficking of children, 70% of whom are girls.
So today as we celebrate added “illumination” of this issue, let us remember that this work has never been more urgent. This increased attention to violence against women must result in an upsurge of support for those who are doing the heavy lifting to remove this scourge from our communities.