A short history of 16 Days of Activism

The UN’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence begins on Wednesday 25 November 2020 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and the campaign runs up until World Human Rights Day, the 10 December.

This year in Victoria, 16 Days of Activism will be focusing on the notion of “Respect Is…”, asking everyday Victorians to consider gender-based violence and what it may look like, and to call out instances where they recognise gender-based violence or it’s precursors taking place.

A short history of 16 Days of Activism

On 25 November 1960, three sisters from the Dominican Republic were beaten to death and dumped at the bottom of a cliff by President Rafael Trujillo’s secret police. The Mirabal sisters, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa, who had been activists actively opposed the cruelty and systematic violence of the Trujillo dictatorship, became symbols of the feminist resistance.

In commemoration of their deaths, 25 November was declared International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Latin America in 1980. This international day was formally recognised by the United Nations in 1999.

black and white photo of The Mirabal Sisters

The Mirabal Sisters, political activists whose deaths were commemorated with the establishment of The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women [image credit iwda.org.au]

Why 16 Days?

Since 1991, the 16 Days campaign has been active between November 25 (International Day Against Violence Against Women) and December 10 (International Human Rights Day). The dates were specifically chosen to link violence against women and human rights and to emphasise that gender-based violence against women is a violation of human rights.

This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including:

November 29 – International Women Human Rights Defenders Day

December 1 – World AIDS Day

December 6 – The anniversary of the Montreal Massacre; a day in 1989 where Marc Lepine entered a mechanical engineering class in Montreal, separated the male and female students and shot all nine women, killing 6 of them, stating he was ‘”fighting feminism”.

The purpose of the 16 Days campaign

16 Days of Activism encourages individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence against women and to:

  • Raise awareness about gender-based violence against women as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels
  • Strengthen local work around gender-based violence against women
  • Establish a clear link between local and international work to end gender-based violence against women
  • Provide a forum in which organisers can develop and share new and effective strategies
  • Demonstrate the solidarity of women around the world working against gender-based violence against women
  • Create tools to allow governments to implement commitments to eliminate gender-based violence against women

Do you want to learn more about how a bystander can call out disrespect before it grows into violence? Bayside City Council and The City of Kingston are presenting the MATE Bystander Program – Lunchbox Webinar, facilitated by Griffith University. You can register for the event now.

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