Orange The World: #HearMeToo: Amplifying Voices to Eliminate Gender Based Violence

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign that takes place each year. It commences on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

In support of this civil society initiative the 16 Days of Activism, under the leadership of the UN
Secretary  General, António  Guterres, the United  Nations Secretary General’s UNiTE to End
Violence  against Women Campaign (UNiTE),  calls for global action to increase  awareness, galvanise advocacy efforts and share of knowledge and innovations.

The theme and activities of this campaign in 2018 are “Orange the World: #HearMeToo. This campaign aims to to stand in solidarity with survivor advocates and women’s human rights defenders who are working to prevent and end violence against women and girls.

MALA recognizes both the progress that has been made, and the vast amount of work that remains ahead in ending gender based violence that affects women and girls.  In this continued struggle, we seek to highlight forms of violence that often go unseen, such as female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, domestic violence, and honor-based violence. MALA utilizes innovative mediums such as arts and story-telling to support the advocacy in sharing voices of women. In recent years, the voices of survivors and activists have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced any more. Advocates understand that while the names and contexts may differ across geographic locations, women and girls everywhere are experiencing extensive abuse and their stories need to be brought to light.

MALA has first-hand knowledge of the profound impact that these forms of violence have on women and girls in the U.S.  Stories collected via MALA’s storytelling project, ‘Muslim American Journeys’, illustrate the pain, struggles, triumphs, tribulations, and resilience of survivors.  These stories give accounts of a myriad of factors and perpetrators, including loss of trusted family members and community leaders, the pursuit of support networks, and the importance of activism and awareness in response to forced marriage, FGM, honor violence, and other forms of violence affecting our very own communities.

We believe that the first step to ending these patterns of violence is to listen to survivors who are brave enough to break the seal of silence.  In her story of arranged marriage and domestic abuse, Nasheyah, a Yemeni-American woman from Buffalo writes, “You’re alone inside your house and you’re ashamed because you don’t want anybody to know you are being abused…I was ashamed.”  (Read Nasheyah’s full story here).

In her personal narrative, Maryum, a career diplomat and an FGM survivor also speaks to the difficulty of breaking the silence and building awareness around gender violence.  She writes, “One of the greatest challenges in raising awareness on FGM is that many survivors are shamed into silence. If they voice dissent, their communities might socially ostracize them.” (Read Maryum’s powerful narrative here).

By listening to survivors and working to strengthen networks of support, we can shine a light on harmful honor-based and patriarchal power dynamics that silence women, and perpetrate patterns of violence.  In her story, Naila, Pakistani American and a survivor of a forced child marriage writes speaks to the consequences of these dynamics: “Honor to [my family] is everything. They will kill their daughter just to show faith in society…I was beat [by my husband] in front of the whole family.” (Listen to Naila’s full story here).

For this campaign, in partnership with UN Women,  we encourage everyone to stand tall against all forms of violence that affect women and girls.  By making our activism inclusive, by broadening the base of our empathy, and expanding the horizons of how we engage with advocacy, we can build communities that are more informed, less afraid, and safe for everyone.  Share your story here to be featured as part of this international campaign.