Starting 25 November, activists around the world will be marking 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence – an annual international campaign to raise awareness of the issue of gender-based violence (GBV) and to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.
Spanning from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November to Human Rights Day on the 10 December, the dates of action highlight the fact that GBV is a violation of human rights. In solidarity with the struggle against GBV and activist efforts transnationally, IDS will be highlighting the work that IDS and partners do towards gender justice.
Why is it important?
Despite the tremendous success of movements against GBV across the globe, challenges to eliminating this fundamental threat to gender justice persist. Securing recognition for a range of gendered violations and the harms they precipitate remains an unfinished project: marital rape, for instance, is still not recognised as a crime in 32 countries. Even where recognition of violence has been secured, efforts to identify and address the causes of violence, as well as to secure redress encounter further hurdles.
Women’s movements across the world are engaged in long and ongoing battles for legislative reform, better policing and judicial infrastructure and practices, and improved access to institutes and mechanisms of redress, while contending with the dangers of relying on the carceral infrastructure of the state for justice. Simultaneously, these movements have to guard against the ways in which women’s vulnerability to violence is weaponised to police their mobility, restrict their freedoms, reinforce border regimes, and rationalise racist, imperialist and ethno-nationalist projects. Place this in the current global context of shrinking civic spaces and patriarchal backlash, and transnational solidarity with women’s movements becomes ever more urgent and important.
The 16 Days Campaign is a global call to action to end GBV and provides an international platform for advocacy and campaigning, allowing grassroots activists to showcase and highlight their cause and to come together in solidarity with other women’s movements around the world. The global theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism is “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”, with a call for activists everywhere to “push forward” against the “push back”.
As part of our commitment to a more equal and sustainable world, IDS undertakes research with partners and gender activists around the world with the aim of contributing to progressive and transformative change. Over the course of the 16 Days of Activism, we will highlight the work that IDS and partners do to contribute to upholding gender justice.
Understanding backlash and what works to defend women’s rights
Global progress on gender equality is under threat. Major political and social shifts are resulting in new forces that are pushing back to reverse the many gains made for women’s rights and to shrink civic spaces. Two research programmes that IDS is involved in are working with partners globally to gain a better understanding of backlash and the strategies that work to retain power and sustain gains in women’s rights.
Working in partnership with scholars and activists in Lebanon, Brazil, India, Bangladesh, UK, Kenya and Uganda, Countering Backlash: Reclaiming Gender Justice aims to enhance the understanding, capacities and opportunities needed for women’s rights organisations and other gender justice defenders to counter backlash and address the erosion of gender objectives within development. Countering Backlash has recently worked with The Centre for Health & Social Justice in India to highlight the experiences of transgender people in India as they fight for their rights.
In South Asia, women have struggled for decades to improve their lives, with women’s movements being critical in advancing their rights. However, contemporary social, economic and political changes have created new and multiple forms of backlash and contestations. Sustaining Power: Women’s Struggles against contemporary backlash in South Asia’ (SuPWR) is undertaking research in collaboration with activists from 16 women’s struggles in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to examine when, how, and why women’s power struggles succeed in retaining power and sustaining their gains against backlash. SuPWR privileges members of women’s movements’ own understandings of power and struggles, with the aim of building capacity and co-constructing knowledge using reflective processes.
Experiences of religious minority women
Led by IDS, the Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development (CREID) aims to redress the impact of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, tackle poverty and exclusion, and promote people’s wellbeing and empowerment using research evidence and delivering practical programmes.
As part of this, CREID have highlighted the particular experiences of women of minority backgrounds who are often faced with intersecting inequalities. Sadly, in many of the contexts in which they work, this results in violence, marginalisation and discrimination. However, it also results in stories of resistance and redress of injustice.
CREID is launching a unique body of research on the experiences of religious minority women in Iraq, conducted by women and men from Iraq’s diverse ethnic and religious communities. Join CREID for an online event on 7 December to hear the women’s experiences and untold stories of identity struggles and trauma, as well as practical barriers to equality.
Building future leadership and activism in gender and development
Having recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, the Masters in Gender & Development at IDS is one of the longest running postgraduate degrees on gender and development. The course provides students with the opportunity to explore the fundamentals of feminist theory and the knowledge to enhance policy and programming for gender equity. Through this master’s degree we aim to lay the groundwork and provide the tools needed for future gender and development researchers, leaders and activists. Many graduates of the MA in Gender & Development have gone on to achieve great things and to contribute to development and social change.
Anushay Hossain, IDS MA Gender and Development alum, and author of ‘The Pain Gap: How Sexism and Racism in Healthcare Kill Women’ stated:
“Studying at IDS really strengthened my academical foundation to pursue my career and to become an expert in this field.”
Stand with us
Follow our 16 Days activity on Twitter and join us in standing in solidarity with women and gender justice activists around the world during the 16 Days and beyond.