Annually, around the world, over the period of 25th November and 10 December, activities are carried out in commemoration of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence of against violence on women and children.
The 16 days starts on International Human Rights Day, which is observed to commemorate the day on which in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The period ends on a day globally recognised as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which is a day to shine a light on the violences suffered by women around the world, in order to highlight and the extent of the violence, as well as the inherent landscape of the problem, where the latter is often concealed, and not addressed. The history of 16days is fairly recent compared to the days that fall around and within it.
There was therefore targeted significance in it’s being around that period. The 16days campaign was first established in South Africa in 1991, as an intervention and strategy towards creating a society that is free of gender based violence, and raises awareness on the negative impacts of gender-based violence, violence against women, as well as violence against children.
These negative effects have a bearing, not only on the individuals affected by violence, and not only on their families, but further on the community.
It is for this reason that interventions are often targeted towards the wider community of our society. The campaign for 16days was first initiated by the first Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) Around and within the 16days, there are other significant international days, recognised by the global community. The first is International Children’s Day. Some refer to this day as the International Day for the Protection of Children. The day was established by the United Nations in 1954 to promote international unity in the protection of children as well as their rights and welfare, universally. Although Children’s Day is commemorated by most, on June 1, Universal Children’s Day is November 20.
The second is World AIDS Day. It is a day commemorated on December 1, to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic, and to mourn the lives lost to the syndrome. On November 29, is the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, which is self-explanatory, and is here highlighted to focus on the thematic area of women’s rights.
This is critical as is a day that specifically recognises women who often put their own lives on the frontlines of human rights advocacy. These women face attacks, often for the types of rights that they defend. For Botswana, in particular, and more specifically, in this year, the
aPopulation Development (ICPD), earlier this month, at the Nairobi Summit, the world community decided on a number of commitment categories. The 5th Commitment Category derives from Gender-Based Violence, and calls for “zero sexual and gender-based violence”.
The commitment extends beyond sexual and gender-based violence to include zero harmful practices, zero early child, early and forced marriage, as well as zero female genital mutilation.
It further extends to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against all women and girls, in order to realise all individuals’ full socio-economic potential. This year, we have seen our society in ways we probably never imagined it. After the first lockdown and the state of emergency were announced, the rate of domestic violence peaked in the most unprecedented of ways.
The shelters around the country became so overwhelmed, and we saw the most devastating reports on child sexual abuse. With rapists, sexual harassers, defilers and assaulters stuck in their own homes, the extent of the social decay surfaced and showed us an aspect of itself we had not considered, but one which should have been right under our noses.
It is difficult to not speak of violence when it seems to be what our society knows, and how the society communicates. Violence has become so deeply entrenched in us, that we find ways of justifying it, and we want to dictate responses to it, for those who have survived it.
There is a clear imbalance which goes against our perceived social fabric and values like botho.
Women, children and LGBT persons have, in this year and over the periods of extreme social distancing and state of emergency have re-emerged as vulnerable, with a specific need for the state to make concerted efforts towards preventing gendered violence.
One shudders to think every day, children are born to a world that is so visibly vile. Over the month of November, I hope we can stop and take stock of ourselves in ways which will guide us in responding adequately.