16 Days of Activism
As many in the U.S. paused to celebrate Thanksgiving last week, November 25th also marked the beginning of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. For 30 years, the international community has come together to amplify voices and speak out against gender-based violence, which affects millions of people worldwide.
While gender-based violence affects men, women, boys and girls worldwide, women and girls like Angela are affected disproportionately.
Angela is a 12-year-old girl living in Malawi, a country where sexual and gender-based violence impacts an estimated 15-25% of girls and boys under 15 years old.
One day, as Angela was leaving school, an older man whom she didn’t know approached her saying that he had something to tell her. When she stopped, he made it clear that he wanted her to be his girlfriend.
Thankfully, Angela had been attending empowerment and self-defense classes, called IMPower, through World Relief’s SCOPE HIV project.
IMPower is a curriculum customized for the unique challenges that boys and girls face. Girls learn about boundary setting and diffusion tactics, verbal assertiveness, negotiation and physical self-defense skills, while the boy’s curriculum focuses on treating women and girls respectfully, and the prevention of sexual gender-based violence amidst social pressures related to masculine norms.
Using the skills she learned in IMPower, Angela loudly asserted that she was not interested in a relationship. To her surprise, the tactic worked, getting the attention of those around her and giving her the courage to walk away.
The next day, she saw the man again. This time, he didn’t even acknowledge her, despite her being alone.
“I can now sense danger, respond quickly to danger, by lying, shaming, negotiating even warning for consequences in order for me to get away,” Angela said. “And if the situation seems very dangerous, there is always readily available support from people and friends around.
Gender-based Violence and HIV Transmission
While the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence runs from Nov. 15-Dec. 10, World Aids Day falls right in the middle on December 1.
Gender-based violence is both a cause and a consequence of HIV. Of people living with HIV in Malawi, 20% reported experiencing physical violence, and 41% reported sexual violence over 12 months, including intimate partner violence.
HIV infections in Malawi are declining, but positive gender norms and gender-based violence prevention are critical to sustaining this momentum and reaching every person who needs it with HIV care and treatment.
In partnership with USAID and PEPFAR, World Relief’s SCOPE HIV project is focused on addressing both issues together by implementing prevention approaches, community mobilization, advocacy, holistic support for survivors and training programs like IMPower.
In just seven months of implementing SCOPE activities, World Relief Malawi has helped 582 survivors gain access to services. These community volunteers and faith congregations have also intervened to stop child marriages and keep young girls in school.
You Can Help
Combating gender-based violence, and creating change that lasts isn’t easy, but it’s possible when we move together. That’s why we invite you to move with us by participating in these 16 Days of Activism. You can:
1. Make a personal commitment to “Stop Violence Now.”
All of us can repent of times when we’ve used power over others to cause harm — whether large or small. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to give power to or have power with people in our homes, churches and communities.
2. Reach out to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
If you know someone who has survived sexual and gender-based violence, reach out and offer a helping hand. Let the spirit of whatsoever you do to the least of my brother, that you do unto me flourish (Matthew 25:40).
3. Pray for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
Prayer is one of our most powerful tools. Pray for healing for those affected by sexual and gender violence, pray for those like Angela who are vulnerable, and pray for men and women to speak out.
Veronica Kaitano serves as the Gender Equality Social Inclusion Technical Advisor with the World Relief’s Programs Resources Team. Through her work, Veronica supports World Relief’s country offices in ensuring the integration of a gender and social inclusion approach within programming and acts as the global technical lead for supporting implementation and continued growth of World Relief’s couple strengthening model Families for Life, with a specific emphasis on disability inclusion.
Laura DePauw serves as the Knowledge Management Advisor for World Relief’s Strengthening Community Health Outcomes Through Positive Engagement (SCOPE) project providing knowledge management, communications, and information management across the project’s four countries.