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16 Days, 16 ways to take action against gender-based violence

It’s November and I am pumped-up and ready for action! Why? Well, for campaigners like myself, that can only mean one thing: 16 days of action calling out violence against women and girls! These 16 days are a time for the whole world to say no to the abuse, no to silence and yes to positive change. But what exactly is violence against women and girls (VAWG)?

Violence against women and girls – VAWG for short – is a major public health issue with life-long physical, emotional and psychological consequences for those affected. More than this, it’s a gross violation of the human rights of countless women and girls across the globe.

In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. That’s a staggering one billion women and girls alive today. Millions of women across the globe face: domestic violence, sexual harassment, human trafficking and modern slavery, forced and early/child marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and so-called “honour” killings – all because of their gender.

As a Muslim woman myself, it pains me to see our sisters in faith and humanity subjected to violence. Islam teaches society to honour women and to respect a woman’s safety, dignity and independence. There is no honour in any type of violence against women and girls and we must speak out against this. Allah Almighty Himself tells us in the Holy Qur’an: “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah.”

We’ve been campaigning against VAWG for two years now, alongside our ongoing efforts to improve women’s lives. We’ve already had thousands watch our videos and pledge their support.

November marks an important opportunity to draw attention to VAWG because it marks the 16 days of activism. What is this you may ask? Well, it’s a time designated by the UN between 25th November – the International Day against Violence against Women and Girls – and 10th December – Human Rights Day – to draw attention to this important subject.

Check out our16 top ways to take action during these crucial 16 days of action and don’t forget to share and tweet us your photos and actions!

1.  Engage with your mosque 

Imams and local community leaders hold a great level of influence in the Muslim community. Friday khutbahs are a great way to raise awareness of the reality of VAWG and to educate others about our rights and responsibilities as Muslims.

Reach out to your local mosque and ask them to deliver a khutbah on the issue. With potentially hundreds of people at the mosque on Jummah, there’s great potential here. Don’t be afraid to bring up this subject. There are plenty of imams who recognise that VAWG is a terrible thing. There’s even a group called ‘Imams against Domestic Violence’ and our campaign has also been endorsed by the Muslim Council of Britain. In fact, many imams have already delivered khutbahs on the subject. If you’d like to get your mosque involved, download our sample khutbah and accompanying guidelines and get in touch today!

2. Talk to your friends and family 

The more people know about the reality of the abuse that women are facing, the greater the potential for change. Knowledge is power and we all have our own networks to tap into. So talk to your friends and family. Ask them: do they know about FGM? Are they aware of how VAWG is affecting women here in the UK and further afield?

Encourage your loved ones to get involved and share the message. Why not start a WhatsApp thread to get the conversation started or host a small get together where you can chat about the issue of VAWG?

3. Donate to support others

In order to tackle VAWG and to support the women affected, it’s crucial to empower women financially. By offering cutters in developing countries other means to make a living, we can combat FGM and keep young girls in school. Likewise, women affected by VAWG require crucial support to build a safe, sustainable independent future. Through a donation to our Women’s Empowerment Fund, you’ll be offering vital support to women at risk of violence and abuse.

4.  Spread the message on social media

With so many of us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, using social media is a great way to get your voice heard and to build connections with other people. 16 days of action is a global campaign so be sure to tweet and share your support – post a photo pledge, share our sign-up link for your mosque to hold a GBV-based khutbah, include some key stats or tell an inspirational story to raise crucial awareness and raise support for women worldwide.

Don’t forget to tag us and to use the following hashtags: #ThroughHerEyes#HearMeToo#16Days and for the brothers out there: #HeForShe!

5. Become a community advocate

Reaching out to people you know can have a massive effect. Perhaps you’re part of a youth club, community or cultural centre. Wherever it may be, why not take a poster to hand out at your meeting or after Friday prayers? You have the power to inform your community about VAWG, so don’t be shy!

6. Get in touch with your local MP

Alongside working in local communities, we’re also working with key influencers and political figures. By engaging with your local MP, you can help to ensure that they keep the cause on the political agenda.

Simply look up your MP here and write to them about the issue of VAWG, urging them to speak out and take action. Even better, why not arrange a meeting or visit a local advice surgery? This is a great way to reach out and remind leaders of their responsibilities to their constituents.

7.  Hold an educational workshop 

Change comes with each successive generation Why not hold an educational workshop in your college, university, child or sibling’s secondary school (making sure the content is age-appropriate) you can empower younger people to build further change. Get in touch with us for more advice and tips!

8. Get creative!

We’re all talented in our own ways. So why not use your special talent to take action and stand in solidarity with those affected by VAWG? You could paint a picture, create a photo exhibition, write a poem or develop your very own play – the possibilities are endless!

9. Host a “brown bag” work presentation

A “brown bag” – an informal presentation or meeting held during lunch – is a great way to engage people. So, why not ask your workplace about holding your very own VAWG-based brown bag to raise awareness of VAWG and how your colleagues can make a difference? Once there, talk to your colleagues about the #ThroughHerEyes campaign, the realities of VAWG and take a group photo with the hashtag to share on social media.

10. Honour an inspirational woman 

Last year, the Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to a female survivor of sexual abuse and a male doctor who has treated and offered support to thousands of rape victims. So share their stories and help build a wave of positivity to show that women count!

11. Remember the affected through du’a

For every positive step we take, we remember the innocent women and girls who are suffering at the hands of their abusers and who may have even lost their lives. The 16 days of activism provides the perfect moment to pause and to pay our respects to those affected, ensuring that these innocent sisters are remembered and never forgotten. 

Here’s a great du’a to use when reaching out to Allah (SWT) in the remembrance of others:

“Oh Allah! Have mercy on those who have returned to You and let their death not be in vain. Guide us to The Straight Path and enable us to be advocates of justice and peace. In the name of Allah The Most Merciful, The Loving and Just. Ameen”

Reach out to Allah and remember those who’ve suffered the injustice that we need to fight!

12. Increase your knowledge

There are so many incredible stories of inspirational women out there. From survivors of sexual, physical or emotional abuse who’ve gone on to become well-known advocates for the rights of women, to the women in our own lives who inspire us each and every day – we all know some pretty amazing women! And their stories can inspire all of us to take action.

Knowledge is power! The more we learn about VAWG, the more we can understand how to fight against it. That’s why is crucial to read, read and read some more on the issue. Islamic Relief Worldwide launched three policy papers on Early and Forced MarriageDomestic Abuse, and Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting. These will provide lots of useful information and help you to understand the issues at hand.

Download them here to help you provide even more backing to your activism!

13. Empower a male ally

It’s incredibly important that well all fight against VAWG if we want to build longlasting, sustainable change. This means womens and men coming together for the better!

So to the brothers out there: you need to have the confidence to speak out against such a gendered issue. We need to support one another so that each and every male figure in our lives has the support and encouragement needed to act as positive male role models and allies.

To our sisters: think of the men in your life or someone you know who’s perhaps an important advocate for human rights and women’s rights in particular. If you think you know someone ready to speak out, then encourage them!

Share our blogs, videos and khutbah and encourage your family and friends to attend any events they’re involved with. We need to work better in teams to encourage both men and women to be in the picture too – for the right reasons!

14. Host a film screening

We all love a good film and a film screening is a great way of bringing together friends, family, colleagues and the wider public for a quick and simple event. You’ll not only be able to raise awareness of the issues raised in the film but also ask for donations to support the cause. It’s also a great networking opportunity to meet like-minded activists!

Here are a few films that you could show about the struggles of women across the globe: Erin Brockovich, Bend it Like Beckham, The Color Purple and Made in Daggenham, including our own short film on why we must see life #ThroughHerEyes. To get started, book a room in your office or local community centre, spread the message online and in local communities and get set for an informative, productive and inspiring evening.

15. Let your words do the talking

Blogs are a great way of raising awareness of key issues in an engaging, accessible format. You could share your learning experiences on VAWG or even write about a famous survivor. With blogs, the world really is your oyster!

Just remember to keep your writing conversational and engaging through the use of imagery and video. Happy writing!

16. Inspire a girl in your life

Just as it’s important to encourage to encourage men to be positive role models for the rights of women and girls, it’s also crucial that we support young girls – offering encouragement, positivity and the inspiration to aim high.

So for women: be there for the women and girls in your life – your daughter, niece, sister, cousin or perhaps sister-in-law. Strive to be the best role model you can, encouraging them to follow their dreams, know their worth and to speak out against injustice. And for the brothers: it’s critical that you support the women and girls in your life to have all the opportunities and protections that you have! Let every girl and woman in your life know that they’re special and that gender justice is a gross injustice that does not have to frame their lives.

Thanks for taking the time to read these 16 ways for 16 days of activism. We’d love you to get involved and speak to your local mosque about holding a khutbah on these issues on 29th November and/or 6th December. These two dates fall within the period of the UN 16 days of activism starting on 25th November and ending on 10th December.

Let us know by clicking here to keep us in the loop. Do also share your experiences on social media by tagging us in pictures, tweeting your experiences and showing us know how you’re getting on!

Take a step in her shoes. Imagine the realities that millions of women and girls face each and every day. Let’s see the world #ThroughHerEyes.

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