For me, the 16 Days campaign has demonstrated the importance of facilitating open and honest dialogue about gender equality and gender-based violence. Especially online, our world today is overflowing with information and opinions about the nature of gender and sexuality, of power and privilege, of the drivers of abuse and discrimination. These often tell a bleak story about women’s position within society, one that begins to sound like a broken record. To counter this outlook, the 16 Days campaign creates a vital space to shift the conversation on gender-based violence. The campaign has helped people to share their stories of change, to build a global narrative that encompasses the positive steps being taken towards gender equality in all corners of the globe. I believe we can use that narrative to challenge unequal power, and collectively take a stand against violence and discrimination.
The Campaign is also an important time to reflect on the positive work being done to combat gender inequality and bring an end to the violence experienced by women and girls across the world. The current conversations around gender, sexuality, power and privilege are often negative, and reinforced by protectionist imagery and dialogue that is at the same time harmful and unhelpful. The 16 Days Campaign instead counters this trend by delivering a message of hope, and by focusing on how together, we can bring about change that will enrich and empower the lives of both women and men, globally and here in Australia.
Over the last 16 days, our aim has been to increase awareness of violence against women in our community, but we haven’t been alone. We have seen a huge number of humanitarian and development organisations, response services and other community members collectively standing against gender-based violence. The stories they have shared and the work they are doing is vital, especially in raising public awareness of the real and concerning gender-based violence statistics — details that we hope will stimulate the community to into action for social change.We wanted The Equality Conversation to inspire individuals who have the passion but who may not have felt able to voice their concerns. We all have an important part in advocating for gender equality and the prevention of gender-based violence, whether by working in an organisation or in development, using art to convey a powerful message or simply actively calling out misogyny and discrimination. The next step now is to make sure that we actively sustain the movement beyond these 16 days, so that long-term and sustainable social change can be achieved.
The 16 Days of Activism campaign has felt like a much needed breath. It has been an important reminder of our potential, and the leadership and passion of men and women working to eliminate violence against women. Often (and with good reason) we focus on the significant hurdles we face in this field. It’s important work, but progress can be slow and change may be difficult to see. 16 Days reminds us that we have allies all over the world and that there are beautiful, strong, kind and intelligent people who share our goals.
Yesterday I had the absolute honour of meeting Professor Charlotte Bunch from Rutgers University who was one of the founders of the 16 Days of Activism. She highlighted that violence against women is not a problem of the ‘other’ and that we must remember that violence persists in Western societies, as in other societies, because our cultures remain patriarchal and unequal. For me, the 16 Days of Activism is powerful because it brings together an activist community globally to galvanize change. But the reality is that eradicating violence against women is going to take long-term, sustainable and fundamental transformations of culture and society, and that will not happen in 16 days. So even though the official campaign ends, tomorrow and the next day and the next day we will keep working to create a more peaceful and equitable world.
I feel that the most important message right now in fighting gender-based violence is to remember that we can all get on board. We all have a part to play in creating a gender-equal society free from violence. There’s room for you in this fight for equality, so climb aboard!
The 16 days to me means a push for dialogue. We now know that gender inequality is a key driver of violence against women. We cannot eliminate this violence without transforming gender-inequitable attitudes. We can begin to create this change with conversation, information and dialogue. Every person has the ability to be an agent of positive change through dialogue. It doesn’t take much time, energy or resources. The 16 Days is a reminder that ideas always have and always will be spread through simple, respectful and informed dialogue. This is an opportunity for everyone to become a part of the gender equality movement.