by Sonja Liukkonen
Last Thursday on December 7th Aware Girls and The Kota Alliance hosted a Lemonade Party to squeeze gender based violence. The promoters and guests gathered at The Center for Social Innovations in New York to drink lemonade, but the main reason for the event was to commemorate the 16 Days of Gender Based Violence Campaign. The 16 Days of Activism is an annual global campaign, which was initiated by participants of The Global Leadership Institute at Rutgers University in 1991. The campaign starts on 25th of November and ends on10th of December. The 16 days in between are devoted to action to stop all forms of gender-based violence.
What is Gender Based Violence?
Our event started with the welcoming words of Saba Ismail the co-founder of Aware Girls and Jaana Rehnström, The Kota Alliance President. After the welcoming words our keynote speaker Saba Ismail began the interactive discussion by presenting the 16 Days of activism campaign. Before this year none of the participants had heard about this campaign. It seems that in 2017 with other campaigns such as #metoo the knowledge of gender-based violence is starting to spread. Good way to spread the awareness is to ask a simple question: What is gender-based violence? Gender -based violence targets an individual, a group or a community. All of the following are forms of gender-based violence: sexual-harassment, child marriage and female genital mutilation. Gender-based violence is a global problem, which victims are mainly girls and women. According to World Health Organization (WHO 2013) 1 in 3 women have faced gender-based violence during their life.
Lemonade Life Line
One part of the event was a group practice called The Lemonade Life Line, which was also led by Saba Ismail. Saba asked the participants, if due to their gender their life has no salt at all, is somewhat salty or has a high level of salty. The participants got a chance to share their experiences as an individual and as a member of a community. This lead to a powerful discussion about gender-based violence and the fact that women and girls often keep quiet about their experiences fearing that if they tell the truth they might hurt other people or that there is something wrong with them. Also, it is important to point out that even though men face less gender based violence than women the society and gender norms often expect men to behave in a certain way.
Together We Can End GBV in Education
The 16 Days of Activism has a different theme every year. The theme for this year’s campaign was “Together We Can End GBV in Education”. Our speaker Saba Ismail pointed out that ”Gender based violence in educational spaces is not only problem of girls but a gross violation of fundamental human rights. ” Gender-based violence in education can happen in the school in a form of sexual, physical or physiological violence. However, the fact that many girls in the world are unable to attend school, can also be a form of GBV in education. For example, girls might be forced to quit school because the school trip might be too unsafe or too long. Some girls might not be attaining school at all because of patriarchal norms or family pressure.
Globally 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school. This is a huge problem since the benefits of schooling are obvious. One additional year of schooling can increase women’s earning by 10 % to 20 %. Increasing the years of education for women is also beneficial for the economic growth. One percent increase of women with secondary education can increase the per capita income per 0.3 %. Also, the education for women decreases the amount of child marriages.
If we want to end GBV in education it is crucial to offer safe educational spaces and to promote a gender equal culture among students, teachers and the families. Moreover, men can also have a part in ending GBV in education. The social norms of the power that men have over women must be changed. Young boys should be taught that any form of gender-based violence is not acceptable. One example of, how men can take a part in ending gender-based violence is Jonathan Calin who also spoke at our event. Jonathan is the co-founder of Party With Consent. Jonathan created this movement at Colby College through the organization Male Athletes Against Violence.
This kind of movement should be an inspiration to all of us. We can all have a part in ending GBV in education. What is your pledge to end GBV in education? Now it is time for us to follow the example of Saba Ismail and Jonathan Kalin and be part of the change we need to end GBV in education.
Thank you Saba and Jonathan.