10 December 2012

What impact can the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women make?

Guest blog from Laura McKeever, 28 Too Many Volunteer.

From the International Day of Violence Against Women on November 25th, to International Human Rights Day on December 10th, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence takes place. Since 1991, over 4,100 organisations have taken part in the campaign to end violence against women, placing emphasis on ending violence everywhere, including the home and in broader world issues. To mark 16 Days of Activism, 28 Too Many have been taking part in daily activities to promote ending FGM in the UK and abroad.

On Day 1–the International Day of Violence Against Women–Ann-Marie’s blog in The Huffington Post highlighted why the continuation of this day is so important. Globally, women and girls will be subjected to acts of violence, bincluding FGM every 10 seconds of the day. While we have multiple laws designed to prevent this in the UK, they are not always implemented. The same story is echoed worldwide. By continuing with this day, we can work towards helping policy makers prioritise ending gender based violence.

Over the last ten days, 28 Too Many have been engaging in national talks and updating Facebook and Twitter with the progress that is being made in tackling FGM. Day 3 saw Ann-Marie hold a Q&A session with Tearfund, a relief and development charity that works with NGOs on tackling poverty globally. As FGM is an issue that prevents many women from making the academic achievements they require in order to bring themselves mout of poverty, engaging with outside agencies on this issue has become increasingly important for raising awareness and empowering women to provide for themselves and their family. FGM also increases the risk of maternal
mortality, and fistula (incontinence) and HIV AIDS.  With radical medical implications, the link between FGM and the continuation of poverty in Africa is clear.

Day 4 was a busy day for 28 Too Many; while Ann-Marie spoke at the Voices of Women FGM event in Birmingham, Louise attended a meeting with the Gender and Development Network, as well as a meeting on ‘Saving lives: preventing & responding to violence against women and girls in emergencies’ at parliament. All three events presented an opportunity to explore why FGM is linked to, and promotes, gender based violence. As an act that is often performed in the absence of consent, without fully informing the girl or woman of the physical implications and with the result of discriminating against women physically and sexually, it perpetuates female oppression and is intrinsically violent in nature. The meeting at parliament focused specifically on FGM in humanitarian contexts, which often include situations where a woman cannot access medical care, and may be exposed to other forms of gender based violence. This was also a great day for highlighting the progress that is being made. While the UN has formed a resolution to end FGM, the UK’s Home Office has created a statement booklet for at risk girls to carry while at home and abroad. By arming them with information, it may be possible to protect them against FGM.

Over the last 10 days, two other important international days closely linked to FGM have been highlighted in the 28 Too Many campaign. World AIDS Day fell on 1st December; with 1000 women dying from it each day, and FGM increasing the risk of HIV transmission, bringing an end to this practice will make an impact on this disease. World Disability Day acted as a great opportunity to highlight how FGM can cause physical and mental disabilities that prevent women from progressing socially
and economically. The UN’s theme this year has been to remove ‘barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all’. Currently, FGM acts as a barrier to social inclusion for women.

Days 10 and 11 found Ann-Marie attending a conference with Trust Women, where she was a lead delegate in an action group session on FGM, and attended talks on forced marriage, trafficking, and enslavement. The aim of the conference was to ensure that the law is fully behind women’s rights, thus ending violence against them. While laws do exist worldwide, more needs to be done to make sure they protect women and girls who are at risk of all forms of violence, whilst fitting in with elements of culture.  28 Too Many made a positive contribution to the conference ‘action’ points, by publicising its ‘passion to share all research/statistics tools on FGM across Africa and the diaspora’ so all government, NGO, academic and media audiences can be better informed and work together to end FGM.  See conference action plans here.

While the last 10 days have highlighted the links between FGM, violence and social oppression, they have also signified the increasing number of organisations, women, men, and policies that are coming together to bring an end to it. With efforts from 28 Too Many, other NGOs, governments, and individuals worldwide, bringing an end to FGM and the oppression that comes with it is something that we grow closer to achieving.  We are dedicated to this cause, for 365 not just 16 days a year.  Join us in the campaign by donating, volunteering or campaigning.  Email us at info@28toomany.org to get involved, ‘Like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.