There are several kinds of gender-based violence, including emotional, psychological, sexual, and physical.
Globally, about one in three women have at some point in their lives been the victim of one or both of these types of abuse.
The “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence” is a globally recognized campaign that spans from November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to December 10th, Human Rights Day. During this crucial period, individuals, organisations, and communities unite in a collective effort to raise awareness and combat gender-based violence. The campaign serves as a powerful platform to advocate for policy changes, promote educational initiatives, amplify the voices of survivors, and engage in diverse activities that challenge societal norms.
Over the past few years, four citizen-led initiatives have been tirelessly fighting against various forms of violence across Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and India.
Josephine Mwende from Kenya in her petition underscores the urgent need for equitable healthcare access for women with cerebral palsy during pregnancy and childbirth, shedding light on the grim reality of obstetric violence. Obstetric violence encompasses various forms of mistreatment, disrespect, and abuse experienced by women during childbirth, constituting a profound violation of their rights and dignity. As a single mother, she was born with a condition known as cerebral palsy and faced discrimination by various hospitals when she wanted to deliver her baby.
In August, she met with the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health, Honourable Susan Nakhumicha to present her campaign. So far, Josephine has been at the forefront of championing her campaign for disability-inclusive healthcare, taking bold steps such as writing opinion articles on the matter and speaking on local and national radio shows, television special features & interviews.
The 16 Days of Activism goes beyond raising awareness by encouraging tangible actions at both the individual and community levels. Human Rights Lawyer & activist Sagina Walyat from India has been advocating for women’s legal rights for the last few years among rural and urban women. The Indian government has launched several women helpline numbers majorly 181 and 1091 for women to access help when in distress. But over the years the number of calls made to the women’s helpline number 1091 has dropped when compared to 2021 as per Delhi Police data. This led to her running a campaign asking the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas to publicise the women’s helpline numbers on the LPG cylinders that are used by 305 million households across the country.
Sagina’s organisation, the Beacon of Rights, works on Women and Human Rights securing social justice impact and focusing on education and SRHR rights for the rural women population. The organisation also seeks to shrink the gender legal literacy gap in India with pro-bono legal awareness and assistance. “These 16 Days of Activism, I call for a world where everyone, regardless of gender, can live free from violence and discrimination”, says Sagina.
Priye Diri from Nigeria is a Young Feminist Filmmaker and Development Expert with experience in Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Response and Prevention. She has been running a campaign asking to waive medical bills for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Abuja. She says, “As an SGBV first responder, every day, I listen to stories of women and girls who have survived SGBV; as I walk with them to access justice, I have seen the cost of justice and the lifelong impact it can have on lives.” She has engaged the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency to deliver her petition and discuss how over 30,000 Primary Healthcare Centers in Nigeria can ensure confidentiality and care when dealing with GBV cases.
She’s currently working on a short film which she plans to premiere before the end of the year highlighting the burden on GBV in Nigeria. As part of the 16 Days of Activism, she plans to engage the Ministry of Women Affairs, and the Ministry of Health in Abuja. The US government recently recognised her incredible work as she was awarded the Mandela Washington Fellowship founded by President Obama in 2010.
440 km away from Johannesburg, South Africa, 34-year-old Innocent Madonsela was shocked to see the ill practice of ‘Funelani nganeno/Ukuthwala’ in Nkomazi local municipality. This is a practice where minor girls are kidnapped, assaulted, and raped by older men. The men then take the girls to their parental home the next day with an offer of marriage in exchange for a token fee. Both families agree to the informal, illegal, undocumented “marriage” without the consent of the girl. “This tradition is not only happening in my village, recently there have been reports that children as young as 10 have fallen pregnant in the last year with KwaZulu-Natal recording 26,515 pregnancies of young girls aged 10 and 19 in eight months.”, says Innocent. He has helped over 20 young girls in the past 12 months. He wants to ensure help reaches every vulnerable girl and that’s what drove him to start an online petition urging the Human Rights Commission to intervene and protect young girls and stop the practice of “funelani nganeno”.
Innocent’s campaign made this advocacy a national issue and he has engaged several stakeholders including the South African Police, the Human Rights Commission, the Gender Commission, and the Council of Traditional Leaders to put an end to this practice and teen pregnancy in Nkomazi. His petition is supported by more than 10,000 people and continues to keep growing.
In a remarkable convergence of purpose, Josephine, Sagina, Priye, and Innocent find themselves united despite geographical distances, their common ground being the formidable force of change they embody as leaders within the Nguvu Collective. The term “Nguvu,” translating to “power” in Swahili, encapsulates the essence of this collective endeavour. Operating as The Power Collective, Nguvu empowers emerging leaders hailing from marginalised communities. Their mission is to fortify these individuals socially and personally, arming them with the strength to enact significant, positive transformations within society. Bound by a shared commitment, these change leaders exemplify the transformative potential inherent in the collective pursuit of empowerment and social change.