The annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) commenced on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ended on 10 December, Human Rights Day. This campaign was started by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and continues to be coordinated each year by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. Individuals and organisations around the world take up this campaign, calling for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Girls Not Brides and EngenderHealth join the rest of the world to commemorate the day under the theme “UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls”.
This joint blog from some of our youth and gender champions advocates for what needs to be done to foster gender equity during 16 Days of Activism.
Picture this – a world where gender isn't confined by or defined through stereotypes, where policies are inclusive, actively supporting the girl child without sidelining the boy child. During 16 Days of Activism 2023, we embark on an exploration of the intersection of gender, policy, health (particularly HIV), and culture, seeking pathways toward a more inclusive and equitable society. The interplay of these elements forms the very fabric of societal norms, shaping perceptions and opportunities for both girls and boys.
We must challenge deeply rooted gender norms to redefine masculinity
Ever paused to ponder just how deeply culture influences our perceptions and understanding of gender? Girls Not Brides, AHF and EngenderHealth youth leaders, ardent advocates for gender equity, invite us to challenge these deeply ingrained norms. In fact, gender inequality is the root cause of harmful practices like child marriage, and also contributes to the high rates of new HIV infections among young women and girls.
Imagine a world where the toxic mantra “boys don’t cry”, exists only as a relic of the past, holding no space in social interaction, and young women and girls are no longer at increased risk of HIV infections. While focusing on empowering the girl child is essential, true progress demands a holistic approach that includes the boy child. Strengthening gender support systems necessitates acknowledging and addressing the needs of both genders. How can we cultivate environments that empower all individuals regardless of gender?
Our youth leaders' fervour for redefining masculinity shines as they urge us to break free from these archaic constraints.
We must bridge the gap between policy creation and implementation
There is a gap between drafting policies and making them work on the ground. Policy alone can’t dismantle systemic inequalities. As we traverse the landscape of gender policies, we encounter blind spots - gaps between lofty formulations and gritty implementation. We advocate for change, encouraging a holistic strategy. Let's not just fill the gaps; let's address the roots. Imagine policies that not only prevent teenage pregnancies, but also offer robust support to young parents and promote access to sexual and reproductive health services, with consideration of cultural influence.
Policies serve as a framework for societal change, yet gaps often exist between policy creation and effective implementation. This discrepancy poses a challenge, particularly on issues like teenage pregnancies, the inequalities in educational attainment for girls and the lack of access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education, where cultural norms intersect with policy limitations. Bridging this gap requires a nuanced understanding of cultural influences and a proactive approach to policy formulation. It's about merging the theoretical with the practical, weaving policies seamlessly into the fabric of everyday life. The call is clear: a unified, all-encompassing approach for a more equitable tomorrow.
We must tackle the cultural barriers that perpetuate gender inequality
Culture, deeply entrenched and influential, can perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes. This isn't just about the 16 days; it's about a continuous journey towards dismantling barriers, challenging norms, and building a world where everyone, irrespective of gender, thrives. By recognizing and confronting these cultural biases, we can dismantle societal barriers and create inclusive spaces. Tackling stigma surrounding issues like child marriages, teenage pregnancies, period shaming and HIV becomes paramount in reshaping cultural narratives.
The 16 days of activism serve as a catalyst for crucial conversations and actionable steps toward gender equality. As we navigate these discussions, let's amplify our efforts to challenge harmful cultural norms, bridge policy gaps, create equitable access to healthcare services and information, champion inclusivity for all genders and eradicate stigma.
We need a comprehensive approach to gender equity
In this journey through 16 Days of Activism, There is an urgent need to address the challenges girls continue to face and also to continue to promote access to education and sexual and reproductive health services. Let’s celebrate the strides made while acknowledging the distance yet to cover. Our commitment to positive masculinity and holistic approaches reminds us that change is possible when we work together. By fostering a comprehensive understanding of gender issues, we can pave the way for a brighter and more equitable future for all.
We need girls to be at the forefront of change
Let's give girls the opportunity to express themselves and exercise their leadership by placing them at the forefront of efforts to bring about change. With girls in decision-making positions - and the support and inclusion of men and boys - we can pave a way towards ending child marriage while confronting the intersection with HIV infections and gender-based violence (GBV).
The canvas is vast, but with each conversation, each policy tweak, and each cultural shift, we're creating brushstrokes of change that resonate far beyond these 16 days.
In the time it has taken to read this article 57 girls under the age of 18 have been married
Each year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18
That is 23 girls every minute
Nearly 1 every 2 seconds
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is a global nonprofit organisation providing cutting-edge medicine and advocacy to over 1,900,000 people in 45 countries. AHF is currently the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the world, committed to achieving global AIDS control. Through its targeted youth programs, such as the Girls Act and Young People's Program, AHF strategically addresses the intersection between social issues and HIV, expanding the delivery of healthcare and influencing policy to save lives.
EngenderHealth is a global organisation committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health rights and fighting against gender-based violence and harmful practice. It supports individuals in making free, informed decisions about sexuality and childbearing so they can live the lives they want.
Girls Not Brides
Girls Not Brides is a global network of more than 1,400 civil society organizations from over 100 countries committed to ending child marriage and ensuring girls can reach their full potential. Girls Not Brides mission is to amplify the voices of girls at risk of child marriage, and to defend girls' rights to health and education, among other.
Child marriage and health
Child marriage has devastating consequences for girls' health. Explore here key facts and insights on the links between child marriage and adolescent pregnancy, gender-based violence, female genital mutilation/cutting, HIV and…
Resources, tools and information for young activists, member organisations, civil society actors and donors to support and promote meaningful inclusion of youth in the collective efforts of the Partnership to end child marriage.