Is 16 days enough to fight gender violence?

“Journalists tend to be good at covering events that happen on a particular day, but we slip at covering events that happen every day, such as the daily cruelties inflicted on women and girls.”

— Nicholas D Kristof

I ask the question because we are close to the 16 Days Campaign.

From November 25 to December 10, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign will be in full swing.

The start and end dates actually have meaning, November 25 is International Day against Violence against Women and December 10 is International Human Rights Day.

The media have an important role to play in highlighting the plight of women and keeping the issue on our radar screens.

But unfortunately that is not the case because as most of them are profit-making institutions, the social issues often fall by the wayside compared to stories that will actually sell the papers.

This is something that award winning New York Times journalist Kristof, quoted above, discovered during his career. His life changed dramatically as he travelled all over the world covering various topics.

He wrote about violent protests, humanitarian crises and other “current” events which grip the world on a daily basis.

However, he soon discovered that the world was and still is in the grip of another humanitarian crisis of alarming proportions — violence against women and girls which goes unreported.

It ranges from “bride burning” in India which is reported to take place once every couple of hours and yet doesn’t make the news.

This is done to punish the bride for a low dowry or to eliminate her so that a man can marry another.

The issue stretches to the life of women and girls living in war-torn zones where raping and mutilation are seen as a right by some of the militants.

There is 13-year-old Long Pross, kidnapped and sold to a brothel in Cambodia.

The female brothel owner gouged her eye out when she was being difficult. As for starvation and hunger, have you noticed that most victims of famine are girls and women?

At an emergency feeding station in southern Ethiopia, a mother held her skeletal 13-year-old daughter and she said that all the males in the family were well-nourished.

So it’s clear that domestic violence, which is a big issue in our part of the world, is only a part of the problem.

Kristof’s life has changed because he has become a self-appointed champion of women in his book Half the Sky.

Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide is definitely eye-opening and heartbreaking.

A best seller in the United States, George Clooney had this to say about it: “I think it’s impossible to stand by and do nothing after reading Half the Sky.  It does what we need most, it bears witness to the sheer cruelty that mankind can do to mankind.”

That’s exactly how I felt.

Research has found that people don’t respond well to statistics, they find them impersonal and many do not help out because to them it’s just numbers.

But when a face and a real person are attached to a story, then people are more willing to take action.

This is what Kristof did.

His book is balanced between the facts and figures and real life stories of women and girls.

Not only that but it is also a call to action. It takes people like you and me to make a difference.

For every country and problem he writes about, there are inspiring women and men making a difference.

Kristof is now busy making a documentary to accompany his book and he still writes for the New York Times.

There is no doubt about it, there are many people who individually or through various organisations are dedicating their lives to eliminating  violence against women and girls.

But they need our help.

If you are able to do only one thing during the 16 Days Campaign let it be to buy and read Half the Sky.

“The mechanism of violence is what destroys women, controls women, diminishes women and keeps women in their so-called place.”

— Eve Ensler.

 afrikarizma@gmail.com.

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