Written by Maria Zafar

November 20, 2018 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 VAWG or gender-based violence (GBV)? 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 violencein 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 launched the Honour Her campaign earlier this year as part of 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? A time designated by the UN between 25 November – the International Day against Violence against Women and Girls – and 10 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. Take the pledge to #HonourHer

Stand up and speak out against violence against women and girls by taking the #HonourHer pledge and adding your name to our campaign. You’ll be joining our ambassadors and supporters to show those who misuse our culture and religion to justify violence that we will not stand for this abuse.

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 how GBV is affecting women here in the SA and further afield? Encourage them to take the pledge, ask what they are doing to take action and get them to 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 issues?

3. 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 GBV and VAWG and to educate others about our rights and responsibilities as Muslims. Reach out to your local mosque and ask them to take the pledge and 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.

4. Donate to support others

In order to tackle GBV and 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 GBV.

5.  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 pledge link, 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: #HonourHer, #HearMeToo, #16Days and for the brothers out there: #HeForShe!

6. Become a community advocate

Reaching out to people you know can have a massive effect. Perhaps you’re part of a youth club, a local mosque 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 GBV and VAWG, so don’t be shy! Poster 1 Poster 2

7. Get in touch with your Ward Councillor

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 Ward Councillor here and write to them about the issue of GBV and VAWG, urging them to speak out and take action. Even better, why not at 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.

8.  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.

9. Host a “brown bag” work lunch

A “brown bag” – an informal presentation or meeting held during lunch where staff can bring their lunch and learn/engage at the same time – is a great way to engage people. So, why not ask your workplace about holding your very own GBV-based brown bag? You could even bring some mini snacks to sweeten the deal. Once there, talk to your colleagues about the #HonourHer campaign, the realities of VAWG and take a group pledge selfie.

10. 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 GBV and VAWG? You could paint a picture, create a photo exhibition, write a poem or develop your very own play – the possibilities are endless!

11. Honour an inspirational woman 

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. This 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.

12. 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!

13. 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: Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels, The colour purple and Frida, including our own short film on why we must Honour Her . 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.

14. Wear an Honour Her badge

Order one of our #HonourHer badges and we will send it out to you as soon as possible. Simply drop me a line at info@islamic-relief.org.za and then start showing it off when you’re out and about!

15. Increase your knowledge

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 Marriage, Domestic 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!

16. 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 GBV and VAWG or even write about a famous survivor. With blogs, the world really is your oyster. Just remember to keep it conversational  and engaging through the use of imagery and video. Happy writing! Thanks for taking the time to read these 16 ways for 16 days of activism. If you’re just starting out, please take the pledge to #HonourHer as a super simple first step to get started. And don’t forget to tag us, send us your photos and keep us updated on your amazing activism! We #HonourHer – do you?
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