Women for Women International’s (WfWI) 16 Days of Activism campaign this year created the opportunity for women to listen to each other, share their experiences, and recognize the importance of speaking out against violence in their communities, both virtually and on-site at our country offices.
Because for many women around the world, their reality exists in the shadows of safety.
In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), the community of Yazidi women survivors of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) invasion in 2014 carry memories of being captured, sold as sex slaves to ISIS fighters, and watching their loved ones being brutally murdered.
Communities interrupted by violent conflict or war increases women's risk of experiencing sexual violence or physical and psychological harm.
Yet, they persist against these harmful living situations.
It’s for this reason that WfWI specializes in delivering services to women living in conflict zones and war-torn areas, who are struggling for social and economic wellbeing. We used our 16 Days of Activism campaign this year to create awareness around the prevalence of violence against women (VAW) and reemphasize our support for women pushing back when their human rights are not acknowledged. Over the course of these 16 days, our country offices in several locations hosted events for women to understand their respective rights in each community, and how they can become advocates in the fight against VAW.
“I was able to learn how to tackle issues whenever they arise in my home. If it comes to physical violence, I was able to understand that I can speak out, there are places that I can go to speak for our voices to be heard.”
-A Program Participant of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign
These events coincided with a virtual conversation with our Conflict Response Fund partners in Ukraine and Poland, who are undertaking on the ground work to support women survivors of the Russo-Ukrainian War. This discussion included Anna Orel (representative of the Andreev Foundation) and Kateryna Shukh, (Psychologist, Art-therapist, Project Coordinator of the Mariupol Association “Bereginya” and Polish Foundation “HumanDoc”) who shared their progress amid the ongoing war with our Chief Program Officer, Marie Clarke.
As our campaign progressed, we hosted a virtual self-defense class where women were taught the fundamentals of protecting themselves if confronted by physical abuse or an attack. The class was taught by Colleen, founder of Guerrera Fit.
At our country office in the KRI, we collaborated with Nadia’s Initiative (founded by Nadia Murad) to host
a Solidarity Circle for women survivors of the genocide of the Yazidi community to express the ongoing challenges that linger in the aftermath of ISIS’ calculated terror. The event created a safe space for women to connect, and to receive support in their healing process after experiencing unimaginable cruelty and brutality.
As part of this conversation, participants of the Solidarity Circle were also asked to write down what makes them stronger in the midst of these difficulties. The overwhelming response from many of the women: Family.
“When we were captured by ISIS, we felt very weak, alone. We couldn’t stand or fight, when we survived and reunited back with our families we became strong, and indeed family makes us feel stronger.”
Our community of supporters also showed their support for WfWI’s program participants through initiatives to buy from women-owned businesses, increase their understanding of VAW, and to use their social media platforms to contribute to our #WhatMakesUsStronger campaign. Through each event and initiative, the message was simple yet resounding: VAW, in all of its forms, must be eliminated.
We are immensely grateful to all of our 16 Days of Activism partners who made each event possible, as well as all of our participants.
Though the 16 Days of Activism has ended, the work to end VAW and its impact on the lives of women worldwide continues. By supporting the women who embrace their power and potential through WfWI’s programming and resources, you can play a vital role in our mission to secure the holistic wellbeing of the women we serve.
Download Our Free Guide:
When you hear the term “Violence Against Women” (VAW), what comes to mind? If you are familiar with the meaning of VAW, you may think of physical or domestic violence. However, did you know that forcing access to a partner’s phone is also a form of violence, as well as enforcing control or monitoring their daily activities? Through this guide, you will learn the different forms of VAW. You will also learn how VAW can be prevented, and what to do if you or someone you know is experiencing any form of VAW.