During the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, which starts on November 25th, activists all over the world raise their voice against the widespread violence against women. In the last 25 years, the initiative has reached millions of people worldwide. But continuing the campaign is still necessary as sexual violence is still prevalent.

By Srushti Mahamuni, volunteer of the Mukwege Foundation.

In 1991, 23 women from different parts of the world  gathered for the first ever Women’s Global Leadership Institute conference. Despite their differences, they had one common goal: to create a global women’s human rights movement.

Over the course of a week, they discussed different aspects of gender-based violence and human rights. They noticed that although violence against women takes diverse forms depending on the context in which it occurs, the problem exists everywhere.

The participating women, among them lawyers, journalists, nurses, teachers and politicians, realised that the issue offered the opportunity to build bridges across cultures and to stand up together in order to increase international awareness of the systemic nature of violence against women and to expose this violence as a violation of women’s human rights.

Origin of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign

At this conference in 1991, the activists started a call for global action to increase worldwide awareness about gender-based violence (GBV), develop solutions and connect women across the world. The 16 Days of Activism Campaign was born.

Every year since, from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, until Human Rights Day on 10 December, events take place all over the world.

Over the years, the 16 Days of Activism Campaign became an efficient tool to raise public awareness, not only about women’s rights, but also about the UN human rights system in general. After 25 years, more than  5,000 organizations in 187 countries have organized activities during the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, and the issue of gender-based violence has garnered a significant amount of international attention.

Last year, 177,000 tweets and Instagram posts reached 311 million users worldwide. Hundreds of activities took place in 90 countries. Famous buildings and landmarks were lit orange, the colour of the campaign: the building of the European Commission in Brussels, the ancient Abu Simbel temple in southern Egypt, the India Gate monument in New Delhi and Petra, a famous archaeological site in Jordan.

Join the Mukwege Foundation during the #16Days of Activism

Despite the achievements and the wide reach of the campaign, violence against women is prevalent. According to UNWOMEN statistics, one in three women worldwide has experienced sexual violence, most of them by an intimate partner. In many conflicts, rape continues to be used as a weapon of war. Therefore, we still have a long road ahead to reach a world free of violence against women and girls.

This year, the Mukwege Foundation participates in the launch of a social media campaign. Together with our followers, we will discuss challenges and solutions to rape as a weapon of war and raise awareness about the issue. Learn more about the problem as we publish daily facts on sexual violence in conflict.

Spread the word by using the hashtag #16days and share the content we publish on Facebook and Twitter! Discuss what you have picked up with friends and colleagues so that your activism doesn’t end with the 16 days campaign.


Srushti Mahamuni is a freelance gender consultant and activist.

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