Monday, 25 November 2019 15:10

The 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence (GBV) is a global campaign which begins on November 25 and concludes on December 10 each year.

The campaign was initiated by activists at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991, triggered by the Montreal massacre in Canada, where on December 6, 1989, Marc Lépine entered the École Polytechnique engineering school and shot dead a group of female engineering students before shooting himself.

When asked why he was shooting them, Lépine said he was fighting feminism as he hated feminists and female engineering students were feminists because they thought they could do what men could do.

Women’s movements from across the globe saw this massacre as one of the most extreme forms of violence against women, thus initiating this global campaign, not only to commemorate the victims of the Montreal massacre, but also to raise awareness, stimulate advocacy efforts and share knowledge and innovations for fighting violence against women and children.

South Africa launched its first 16 Days of Activism campaign in 1998, joining the international community in the fight against gender-based violence. The UN Women affirmed that in 2019, the world must pay tribute to, and amplify, the voices of survivors and grassroots activists under the theme “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape - #HearMeToo”, calling for individuals and organisations alike, to listen to and believe survivors, end the culture of silence and put survivors at the centre of interventions.

Objectives of the campaign

The objectives of the 16 Days Campaign are to:

  • Attract all South Africans to be active participants in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children, hence the theme: Count me in.
  • Expand accountability beyond the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster to include all government clusters and provinces.
  • Combine technology, social media, the arts, journalism, religion, culture and customs, business and activism to draw attention to the many ways violence against women and children affects the lives of all people in all communities around the world.
  • Ensure mass mobilisation of all communities to promote collective responsibility in the fight to eradicate violence against women and children.
  • Encourage society to acknowledge that violence against women and children is NOT a government or criminal justice system problem, but a societal problem, and that failure to view it as such results in all efforts failing to eradicate this scourge in our communities.
  • Emphasise the fact that the solution lies with all of us.

What is violence against women and children?

Violence takes many forms, for example:

  • Physical violence in the form of domestic violence, terrible violent crime such as murder, robbery, rape and assault.
  • Emotional violence and trauma at many levels caused by many factors. Women and children in their homes, at work, at schools, on our streets, in our communities suffer this form of violence for various reasons.
  • Another terrible blight of our democracy is the violence of poverty, starvation, humiliation and degradation, especially against women and children. Poverty, inequality and unemployment are conditions under which violence thrives.

What can you do?

Together, let us take actions to support the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.

  • Support the campaign by wearing the red ribbon during the 16-day period: A white ribbon is a symbol of peace and symbolises the commitment of the wearer to never commit or condone violence against women and children.
  • Participate in the various 16 Days of Activism events and activities.
  • Volunteer in support of NGOs and community groups who support abused women and children: Many organisations need assistance from the public. You can volunteer your time and make a contribution to the work of institutions. Help plant a garden at a shelter, sponsor plastic tables and chairs for kids at a clinic or join an organisation as a counsellor. Use your skills and knowledge to help the victims of abuse.
  • Speak out against woman and child abuse.
    • Encourage silent female victims to talk about abuse and ensure that they get help.
    • Report child abuse to the police.
    • Encourage children to report bully behaviour to school authorities.
    • Men and boys are encouraged to talk about abuse and actively discourage abusive behaviour.
    • Seek help if you are emotionally, physically or sexually abusive to your partner and/or children. Call the Stop Gender Based Violence helpline (0800 150 150).
    • Talk to friends, relatives and colleagues to take a stand against abuse of women and children.
    • Try and understand how your own attitudes and actions might perpetuate sexism and violence.
    • Spread the message on social media using
  • Join community policing forums (CPFs): The community and the local police stations are active partners in ensuring local safety and security. The goal is to bring about effective crime prevention by launching intelligence-driven crime-prevention projects in partnership with the local community.You may want to also become a  reservist, a member of the community who volunteers his/her services and time to support local policing efforts to fight crime. For  more information on how to join, contact your local police station.

Meanwhile President Cyril Ramaphosa was speaking at the launch of this year's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence in Limpopo.

He said the level of gender-based violence in the country was shocking and this crisis of violence against women and children is a great shame for our nation. It goes against our African values and everything we stand for as people.