Global News | Dec 4, 2019

Map of Voices against Violence

Vital Voices 16 Days

Vital Voices is a global network of change makers fueled by an understanding that women are essential to progress in their communities. In our pursuit of investing in leaders with daring visions for change, we focus on facts. We know that 1 in 3 women globally experience violence in their lifetime. We also know that not a single day of the year, and not a single country in the world, is immune to this epidemic.

During the 16 Days of Activism, advocates from the across the world raise their voices in chorus to demand action towards the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. In doing so, we honour movements and their mobilizers, whose courage and commitment galvanize advocacy and action during the remaining 349 days of the year. Collectively, we make up a network of voices against violence that spans the globe.

What are those voices really calling for? If we as advocates are not seeing better results in a case, a community, or a country – it likely means we are not using our voices to ask the right questions of the right people, the most important of whom are survivors. By taking a survivor-centered approach, and asking (rather than telling) survivors about their needs and challenges, we pave the way for better outcomes that reverberate in our communities, countries and beyond.

Expanding and diversifying our network of voices against violence empowers us to navigate and bridge gaps between borders, sectors, genders, generations and other divides. We at Vital Voices recognize that while violence transcends race and culture, age and ability, creed and country, a survivor’s individual experience of violence – and thus their unique needs – vary based upon their intersecting identities. Justice itself is therefore a collective journey that requires coordination between diverse partners with inclusive perspectives committed to serving all survivors of violence, beginning with the most vulnerable, marginalized and underserved.

Vital Voices has worked across continents asking, listening and learning first-hand from those on the front lines of experiencing, preventing and addressing violence. One of the greatest lessons we have learned is the importance of partnership. We know that no one sector alone can adequately confront the breadth and depth of violence. Our commitment to collaborative solutions is why we have been part of a public-private partnership with Avon and the Department of State for over a decade. That partnership has grown into the Voices Against Violence Initiative (VAV), through which we have endeavored to prevent and address gender-based violence through training and support that has impacted over 2.3 million individuals in over 60 countries.

At the conclusion of our program in Mar del Plata, Argentina in November, a female police officer who had balanced both attending the training with responding to a femicide, thanked VAV for providing a space for the professionals in the room, so different in perspective and profession, “to speak a common language.” She pulled her shield off her jacket and handed it to me, later explaining: “Our shields, plates and uniforms are important to us because they allow us to recognize ourselves around the world as members of the same group of people for the same purpose. With this perspective I give you the police shield to which I belong, trusting that you will see it as a symbol of commitment and companionship.”

16 Days, a mere 4% of the calendar year, is insufficient to eradicate violence against women and girls. However, if we leverage the 16 Days to expand a map of voices against violence for all 365 days of the year, we unleash a crescendo of collaborative advocacy and activism. In the words of Tarisai Mchuchu, whose organization, Mosaic, we partnered with in October for a VAV program in Cape Town, South Africa: “Now is the time for me and you to lift where we stand and ensure that our collective voices for good are the louder than those that seek to spread violence and fear."