Women’s Rights Activists Kick Off 16-Day Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence

By San Yamin Aung 25 November 2016

RANGOON — Women’s rights activists celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Friday, the start of a 16-day campaign to reduce gender-based violence.

Over 30 civil society groups, NGOs, and INGOs will take part in the campaign. Groups such as the Gender Equality Network (GEN), Women’s Organizations Network of Myanmar (WON), Women’s League of Burma (WLB), Population Services International (PSI) Myanmar, and Phan Tee Eain (Creative Home) will organize community events to raise awareness and to engage men in eliminating violence against women.

The United Nations designated Nov. 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, also known as White Ribbon Day. Friday is also the start of a campaign of events to end gender-based violence, an idea launched in 1991 by the US-based Center for Women’s Global Leadership.

Civic groups will organize community activities across the country, including public activism, theater performances, singing groups, quiz sessions, dance performances, and lectures, for 16 days from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10.

Ma Lu Lu San, a member of Dawn Action on Women’s Network, said that violence against girls and women is happening more frequently in Burma these days, especially sexual violence against the most vulnerable.

“We need to raise more awareness with the public, including with schools and parents, about gender-based violence in order to prevent rape cases and abuse,” she said. She added that parents should also be careful when trusting neighbors or friends to look after their children, something which is quite common in Burma.

During the 16 days of activism, local radio and TV channels will broadcast important discussions about violence against women, violence against men, violence against LGBT persons, violence against the disabled, domestic violence, and sexual harassment.

To raise public awareness, a “Forever White Ribbon” singing contest will take place from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10.

Ma Lwin Lwin Hlaing, the Women’s Rights Coordinator at Action Aid Myanmar, said that her organization will also hold events about rape and domestic violence in local markets, shopping malls, and bus-stops in seven different townships. She said that physical and sexual violence against women and girls is rising in Burma, and women are experiencing urban insecurity.

“Now is an emergency situation. It’s time to tackle these cases of violence,” she said. She added that civil society and the public must work together with the government to reduce violence against women.

“It is not safe anywhere for women and girls these days,” said Ma Lwin Lwin Hlaing. “There is an urgent need to take action against offenders with harsh sentences. If we don’t do this, the situation will only get worse.”