Challenging Militarism and Ending Violence Against Women

By Keely Swan, cross-posted at On The Issues Magazine

The Center for Women’s Global Leadership’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign that began in 1991. Participants of the Center’s first Women’s Global Leadership Institute chose the dates November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and December 10, International Human Rights Day, to symbolically link violence against women and human rights, and emphasize that violence against women is a human rights issue.

The 16-day period also highlights other significant dates, including November 29, International Women Human Rights Defenders Day; December 1, World AIDS Day; and December 6, the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

Each year, in consultation with experts and activists from around the world, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) selects a central campaign theme. In 2010, in an attempt to explore and better understand the socio-economic and political architecture that promotes and perpetuates violence against women and girls, the center launched a multi-year 16 Days Campaign theme focused on the intersections between militarism and violence against women.

The 16 Days Campaign defines militarism as an ideology which creates a culture of fear and supports the use of aggression, violence and military interventions for settling disputes and enforcing economic and political interests. Militarism privileges violent forms of masculinity, which often have grave consequences for the safety and security of women, children, men and society as a whole. Military interventions, attacks on civilians participating in social movements and ongoing conflicts exemplify the ways in which militarism influences how we view our families, neighbors, communities, and specific countries and peoples therein.

The 2011 Campaign theme is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women! The 16 Days Campaign focuses on five issue areas identified as priorities for those working on the intersections of violence against women and militarism:

1. The roles of women, peace, and human rights movements in challenging the links between militarism and violence against women;
2. The proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence;
3. Sexual violence during and post-conflict;
4. Political violence against women, and
5. The roles of state actors as perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence.

While militarism is often discussed in terms of conflict situations, the Campaign seeks to broaden our understanding of the many ways militarism influences our daily lives and lived realities. Focusing on the ways in which “peace in the home” extends to “peace in the world,” the campaign reveals how values of nonviolence can influence attitudes of families, friends, communities and governments related to violence against women.

Through this campaign, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership will work to support the development of a coordinated, global, feminist critique of militarism and its links to violence against women. The 2011 campaign is an opportunity for reflection about what the global women’s rights movement can do to challenge the structures that perpetuate violence against women. A crucial aspect of the 16 Days Campaign involves listening to the stories of women worldwide and standing in solidarity with each other to end violence against women. It is also an opportunity to reach out to, and involve, more men, boys, faith-based and traditional leaders, and other key stakeholders to build a more just and peaceful world. It also emphasizes the importance of working locally to promote peace.

Since 1991 over 3,700 organizations from approximately 164 countries have participated in a variety of ways in the 16 Days Campaign through workshops, documentary screenings, rallies, marches, vigils and more. The Center for Women’s Global Leadership invites organizations and individuals to work for an end to violence against women by implementing and participating in activities during this year’s campaign. Resources will be available in a “Take Action Kit” on the Center’s website to aid in organizing 16 Days events.

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