Guest blog by Hannah Lawrence
The seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, declared in 2006 ‘violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. At least one out of every three women in the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her.’ Consider this along with the findings of the 2014 EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) survey which showed that ‘two-thirds of female victims of physical and/or sexual violence did not contact the police or any other service following the most serious incident of violence they had experienced’.
But perhaps even these statements don’t incite the necessary urgency – to attempt to wrap our heads around the scale of this global problem we must familiarise ourselves with at least a few more figures: more than 700 million women alive today were married as children, 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation, and two out of every three child trafficking victims are female. Yet unnervingly, gender-based violence knows no religion, age, nationality, culture, or socio-economic class. As unsettling as it is to imagine gender-based violence as an unknowable phantom with no beginning or end, cultural historian Riane Eisler has, for decades, drawn attention to something far scarier: ‘for most of recorded history […] those who had the power to prevent and/or punish this violence through religion, law, or custom, openly or tacitly approved it.’
Luckily, things are changing for many women and girls around the world. But unfortunately, for most the change is slow and unevenly distributed. This brings me to the second part of Eisler’s quote and how Changing Perceptions fits into this picture: ‘the reason violence against women and children is finally out in the open is that activists have brought it to global attention.’ And this is what we intend to do.
Changing Perceptions (Bright Red Triangle, Edinburgh Napier University), together with Bright Choices (SACRO), The Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service, Police Scotland, and numerous other organisations and institutions around Edinburgh (and wider Scotland) are teaming together this year to spotlight gender-based violence through a 16-day campaign in Edinburgh. We are executing this within the framework and timeframe of the international campaign started by the United Nations’ called ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence’. Each year, from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day – the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) over 160 countries and 3,700 organisations take part in this campaign in some form. And Changing Perceptions, together with all our partner organisations, intend to join Scotland’s – and the world’s – active stance against gender-based violence this year.
Beginning 25 November 2017 we will host activities across Edinburgh which help spotlight, inform, and raise awareness about gender-based violence around the world. Every day for 16 days you will be able to find some sort of activity that will stimulate discussion, provoke thought or debate and hopefully affect change around the topic of gender-based violence – this may come in the form of talks, workshops, exhibitions, shows, movie screenings, etcetera. There will be something for everyone and every age group. As we move closer to these 16 days, more information will be provided and a website will be created in order to chronicle our journey to, during, and after this campaign. Please stay tuned for that and to learn more about the fantastic events we are planning for Edinburgh this year – we want everyone to be a part of it. Mark your calendars from 25 November to 10 December because it is on these days that we help break the silence about ‘the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on earth.’
About the guest blogger:
Hannah is completing her doctorate at the University of St Andrews. Her thesis is on current exclusionary practices in the British heritage industry and their moral and historical responsibility to discuss and disseminate BME historical narratives within the British built environment. Additionally, Hannah has worked as project coordinator for a project entitled ‘Barriers of Poverty and Inequality’ with the Edinburgh and Lothian Regional Equality Council (ELREC). In this project she worked with and researched African, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi communities to Edinburgh in order to better understand their barriers to personal and economic success. Her report served to give a voice to these disenfranchised communities in hopes that they can personally inform change at both the governmental and non-governmental level. This report can be accessed here.