The fire behind the orange: 25 November


The Empire State Building lit in orange on 24 November ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
The Empire State Building shines in orange light to commemorate 25 November. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Today (25 November) we celebrate another milestone in the recognition of violence against women as a major global concern. The Empire State Building, the United Nations Headquarters and Times Square in New York are lit up in orange for International Day against Violence against Women — the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign. This “orange your neighborhood” #OrangeUrHood initiative from UN Women and the Secretary-General’s UNiTE Campaign is used to “symbolize a brighter future without violence.” For us, the “orange” comes from the fire ignited by the many women’s groups dedicated to combating violence against women around the world.

This UN initiative must be kept closely linked to civil society, where work against violence against women has its origins, and on whose efforts it still depends. The 16 Days began in 1991 in many parts of the world simultaneously, as an NGO-led campaign to highlight violence against women as a human rights issue. Since then, it has grown steadily and is owned by many — women’s groups, NGOs, governments and international organizations like the UN. This is a good thing and the more allies the better. But such work relies on the day-to-day commitment of women’s organizations everywhere. Research has shown that the presence of a strong women’s movement is the most important factor in changing policies around violence against women.  

One look at today’s New York Times is an ever present reminder of how much violence still pervades women’s lives — from another report of fraternity rapes on US college campuses, to the Turkish President’s statement that women shouldn’t be considered equals, to the exclusion of women from peace efforts in Afghanistan, to the UN report on the increase in trafficking of children, 70 per cent of whom are girls.

So today, as we celebrate added “illumination” of this issue, let us remember that this work has never been more urgent. This increased attention to violence against women must result in an upsurge of support for those who are doing the heavy lifting to remove this scourge from our communities.

For more information about the history and NGO coordination of the 16 Days Campaign and women’s activities around the world this year, go to #16Days

By: Charlotte Bunch and Roxanna Carrillo

Cross-posted from the Rutgers Center for Women's Global Leadership 16 Days Campaign.