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  • 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, 2007 - Index of articles

  • 16 Days of Activism: Demanding implementation, challenging obstacles: End violence against women!
    Susan Nkomo, Health and Development Network
    November 26, 2007

    Visit the index of articles on 16 Days of Activism

    This year's theme for the UN Campaign is: Demanding Implementation, Challenging Obstacles: End Violence against Women!

    First forgive me for over reference to the S.A case study - this is the case study I am most familiar with - so do accept that it is not my intention to underplay contributions by other countries in southern and eastern Africa.

    Having said that I would highlight what I think is a best practice emerging from the South African experience, which relates to the theme for the Campaign. We often work on our own annual theme for the national campaign - which is derived from a consensus among the Gender Machinery - which includes civil society, the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE); representatives of the Parliamentary Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement of the Quality of Life and Status of Women (JMC) as well as the Executive through the Office on the Status of Women (OSW) in the Presidency. The idea of a negotiated national theme enables us to reflect and highlight key national priorities; and build into our national theme; the SADC consensus that in this region the focus of the Campaign is on both Women and Children. Because of the enormity of the Campaign; Cabinet assigns a Ministry to drive the Campaign; and a Secretariat has been put in place to work with the Deputy Minister of Provincial and Local Government in driving the Campaign.

    The fact that the Deputy Minister chairs meetings preparing for the 16 Days Campaign; months in advance, where she meets with the national gender machinery - which in S.A comprises civil society, the CGE, the OSW and the JMC; as well as members of provincial administrations to invite them to contribute/ and or recommend Activities towards the Calendar of Events for the Campaign; has built a strong feeling of ownership of the Campaign at all these levels.

    I think that in the years since 1999 the Campaign reach and impact has been significant at the National. The Campaign has also been awarded the accolade of being the most effective public Campaign at the National level. Whilst I will not go into too much detail about this, I believe the reason for this success is that the Campaign up to now has been focused. The danger might be because of its own success too much is being heaped on the 16 Days; and already there is confusion about the 16 Days versus the 365 Days. The effect of equating the 16 Days Campaign to the need for a 365 Days Programme of Action on No Violence Against Women - has had the effect of suggesting that these are two competing initiatives. I believe there is a place for a clearly articulated Campaign - which is limited to a number of days of heightened Activism - in this case the 16 Days Campaign of Activism on no Violence Against Women - as they say - "if it isn't broken, do not fix it." There is clearly a place for a clearly articulated 365 Days Programme which tells the nation what each key role player will be doing in order to address Violence Against women; and how this is to be measured. These however are two different initiatives, whose impacts are to be assessed and judged differently

    On the specific questions you raise; I will address each separately

    Are women taking on active leadership roles in eliminating gender-based violence?

    I am not sure this is the right question; women have spearhead initiatives which have led to multilateral organisations and governments making commitments; through internal instruments to prevent and eradicate violence against women. Violence Against Women is not a "women's issue". It is in fact a human rights and social justice question. But it is men's behaviour which is often in question; and more activism by men is required to enable the required change. But ultimately accountability rests with governments at the national level. This is an important point - reducing gender based violence to a women's issue is dangerous - it shifts the lens from the fact that violence against women does not only occur at the domestic level; but is indeed a sophisticated multi billion dollar industry which includes trafficking in women and children for sex, cheap labour as well as body parts and involves very sophisticated multi national syndicates. Another point which gets lost in this reduction is the fact that gender based violence; perpetrated against women and children is often used effectively as a weapon of war in conflict situations

    What can women in positions of leadership do to ensure key commitments are achieved (including universal access and Millennium Development Goals MDGs?)

    Again I do not think this is a women's issue - it is imperative that ALL leaders ensure that key commitments including the MDG's are addressed.

    Does the 16 Days of Activism commemoration have an impact on ending the gender-based violence?

    An awareness campaign alone will not achieve the change we need - it plays an important role - but what is needed as Kofi Annan stated over and over again:

    "Study after study has taught us that there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, or to reduce infant and maternal mortality. No other policy is as sure to improve nutrition and promote health - including the prevention of HIV and AIDS. No other policy is as powerful in increasing the chances of education for the next generation. And I would also venture that no policy is more important in preventing conflict, or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended...

    In this regard, the Secretary-General has also said:

    "We need a deep revolution that will give more power to women, and transform relations between women and men at all levels of society..."

    Of course the problem is that often-times the commitments of governments and the international community remain only that- promises; declarations; solemn declarations- but are never implemented.

    In the absence of the "deep revolution", perhaps we have to rely on Awareness Raising Campaigns; calling an end to impunity and holding governments and the international community accountable to implement the commitments they have made; towards improving the quality of life and status of women.

    I hope the above is sufficiently provocative.

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