From the 25th of November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to the 10th of December, Human Rights Day, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world (UN Women). The theme for this year’s global campaign Violence Against Women (VAW) is “Let’s challenge militarism and end violence against women”. As part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, Women LEAD organized several events to raise awareness and public engagement regarding violence faced by women. As an organization that believes in women and girls leading alongside men through full participation at all decision-making levels, we believe it is important for our organization to support social movements like these.
As part of our events for 16 days, on December 3rd, we hosted a video conference call with the students from St. Michael School in Barbados. The event was co-facilitated by one of our US Board members, Kaara Martinez. Four LEADers from Women LEAD interacted with the Barbados students about how they are personally affected by street harassment. It was a cross cultural exchange where both the parties got to know about each other’s countries. The participants discussed their views regarding street harassment, their personal experiences with it and how they tackled it. They also shared their ideas as to how the street harassment can be dealt on a policy level. One of our LEADers Aakriti said, “It was a good learning experience for us as we got to learn about the Barbados scenario and the diverse cross cultural setting in which harassment can take place.”
On December 5th, Women LEAD, in collaboration with Hollaback Kathmandu conducted a Self Defense session for 30 female refugees for UNHCR Nepal. The session was provided to the refugees from diverse nations such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Nigeria and Vietnam.The primary goal of our self defense sessions was to provide the participants with basic tips on how to defend themselves should they ever come across harassment in public spaces. We aim to equip the most vulnerable groups with the necessary tips so that they can defend themselves. Ayesha, a twenty- three year old refugee from Pakistan said, “It was a very new experience for us. Earlier, we did not know that we could use our body as weapons. But after the session, we learned to use our body as a weapon to protect ourselves.”
Keeping in mind the media’s power when it comes to generating public interest in such social issues, we will be participating as guest speakers in talk shows at our local radio station. Additionally, our LEADers will be writing Op-eds for newspapers to highlight the issues related to violence against Women (VAW) during the 16 days of activism.
We also worked alongside Hollaback Kathmandu, (a global campaign powered by local activists across 29 countries to end street harassment) to create awareness among the young population of Kathmandu about Violence against Women. We hosted workshops across eight different schools in Kathmandu valley. The sessions were provided to students of grade nine as this is the most formative time phase in a person’s life. We also screened a documentary related to VAW such as ‘Girl Rising’ and had a post documentary discussion after that. Our goal is to provide them with the necessary knowledge to tackle these issues in their homes and their communities.
Women LEAD team also had an interactive session with the Women Police from the Women and Children Service Center. The session was very insightful as the staff were very interactive and also showed us their work module from the grass root level. We learned about the current crime rate, the types of crime that are reported and the severity of the crime related to women violence. We also got an insight about the punishments that are associated with the different types of crime related to women violence. The statistics depicted an increment in the reporting of crime due to increased awareness. The Police Center also has separate female constables to deal with the female victims of violence. Inspector Khadka said, “We try to solve the situation in a non-violent manner. If there is violence in a marriage, we give the husband a warning and try to settle the issue in a cohesive manner. We also provide counseling classes for men to sensitize them about gender issues.” LEADer Aakriti shares her experience of her visit saying, “Some of the new things that really amazed me was the fact that the police officials are not so cold natured as we have heard about through other people. They were in fact very supportive when it came to issues regarding the safety of women and children.”
We have also shown our support to the UN Women’s #orangeurhood campaign. Since social media has become an integral part of people’s lives, the campaign’s theme was to wear something orange and showed a message ‘End Violence Against Women’. Violence Against Women’. You can check our photos from the event here. One of our LEADers Reeti says, “The 16 day campaign is an important platform to sensitize the people regarding the issues of women violence. By showcasing different exhibits related to women violence, we can bring awareness amongst the youth and equip them with a positive mindset from an early age and cater to minimise and eventually end violence against women.”