Gender-based violence encompasses various forms of harm, including sexual, physical, mental, and economic abuse, whether occurring publicly or in private settings. Gender-based violence can happen to anyone however it’s prevalent amongst young girls and women. It involves threats, coercion, and manipulation, manifesting in different ways such as intimate partner violence, sexual assault, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and so-called ‘honour crimes.’ The aftermath of gender-based violence is profound, often resulting in lifelong repercussions for survivors and, tragically, sometimes it can even culminate in loss of life.
16 Days of Activism
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that runs from November 25 to December 10, focusing on eliminating violence against women and girls. Originating from the Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991, the campaign is led by civil society and endorsed by the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 initiative. The campaign theme for 2023 is Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women & Girls, aligning with the Commission on the Status of Women’s 2024 priority theme.
A personal perspective
My own experience with gender-based violence has been influenced by the environment I grew up in. I was taught from an early age that women have less rights or that they are simply not respected.
During my teenage years, I faced gender-based violence within my first serious relationship. Regrettably, intimate partner violence occurred because my partner lacked confidence in my previous sexual history before our relationship. This experience profoundly changed my future relationships and clouded my perceptions of men in general.
After high-school I met my former husband and we had to migrate to Australia. I left all behind thinking I would have a better life however this was not the case. When I migrated to Australia my experience worsened where I was exposed to physical, verbal, and economic violence by my former husband. For almost ten years I felt helpless, repressed, and discriminated against. I was being denied my basic human rights, like the right to study and work as well as the right to make my own decisions. This was all done under the skewed mentality, “men are superior” and “in the home the wife should stay in the kitchen.”
When I left that relationship, I experienced workplace discrimination, which fuelled even further my determination against workplace discrimination and those who abuse their power over others.
I believe that it is important for women and children to educate themselves in order to avoid being exposed to harmful circumstances. The campaign highlights the preventability of violence and successful strategies like the RESPECT Women Framework and the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative. Furthermore, it is important to emphasize that he economic costs of violence are far greater than if we were to adopt a prevention strategy.
Due to gender-based violence, drastic changes can occur in your life where you might feel powerless in your ability to prevent further abuse or address a difficult situation. Gender-based violence can also have a significant impact on your physical and mental health. By being exposed to this form of violence people around you can also suffer as a result of such conflict.
By writing this article I decided that I’m going to raise my voice in the hopes to contribute to a society which will foster justice and respect for basic human rights. That is why I decided to join “The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” initiative and hopefully inspire other young girls and women. This article is for all girls and women who feel that their rights were taken from them, and they feel like there is no end to violence. I want them to know they are supported; they are heard, and that the cycle can be broken.
This campaign encourages everyone, including UN networks, civil society, private sector, and individuals, to contribute to different prevention strategies.
For more information head over to: https://www.unhcr.org/what-we-do/protect-human-rights/protection/gender-based-violence
Biljana Boglevska is an aspiring writer, who’s studying Bachelor of Arts, Professional Writing and Publishing at Curtin University. Her interests lie in storytelling, human rights, the arts and languages, as well as contributing to culturally and linguistically diverse communities.