By Sunniva Haberg, Youth Advisor AAYMCA
16 days of Activism – 4 words that gain more fame as years pass by. Unfortunately, some might say, because it means that the goal of ending gender-based violence (GBV) has not yet been achieved. Globally, about 35% of women experience either sexual, emotional, physical or economical violence during their lifetime. In some countries, the percentage is as high is 70%. This is alarming and shows that ending GBV is an urgent matter that can wait no longer.
There is no justification for violence, but sometimes we find that cultural practices justifies mistreating women. Child marriage, forced marriage and FGM are examples of harmful cultural practices where women are at risk. For the women experiencing this, non-compliance might lead to losing their life for putting their families’ honour at risk, or for refusing to follow the orders from their parents. In most cultures, women are told either implicitly or explicitly to follow orders from their husbands or fathers, or any other male authority in their family. The self-determinacy of a woman is often reduced, and her body and freedom is controlled by others. While this is changing, it is not changing fast enough. Every day, 137 women are killed by their intimate partners or family members. This means that for the 4 days this campaign has been going on so far, 548 women has lost their lives to GBV.
The theme for the 2019 campaign is Generation Equality stands against rape. This means challenging rape culture, which is found all around us. In pop culture, in our language, in the way we dismiss the seriousness when victims tell their stories, in the way we think that it can never happen to us and in the way we are passive bystanders. 15 million adolescent girls have experienced rape at one point in their lives. While a common misconception is that rape is something that is done by a stranger, most rapes are done by someone who is close to the victim. Ending rape culture means investing in spreading knowledge about what consent is. Consent should be meaningful, informed and free. This means that the person who gives consent should be able to do so without fear for economic or other consequences. Consent should be given in any circumstance; whether you are single, in a relationship or married. Whether you have been intimate with the person before, or if it is the first time. Consent given under influence by drugs or alcohol is not meaningful consent. Consent given if threats, for example about losing your job or not getting your grades, are put forward at the same time is not free consent. Consent is not consent if you said no but felt pressured to change your mind.
The 16 days of activism campaign is global, and all individuals, organisations, movements and countries are invited to join in. The Africa Alliance of YMCAs is no exception. This year, Liberia and Kenya are visibly marking the campaign. Clearly, 16 days of activism per year is not enough. We need 365 days of activism until we have managed to gender-based violence, and we need everyone on board. You can start by having the discussion on consent with your friends, your partner and your children. The rape culture needs to change, and it happens one person at a time. Let us take up the responsibility of being Generation Equality and work towards ending GBV in our lifetime.