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Bicycle rally in Maldives to celebrate the 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women and girls. Photo: UN RCO Maldives/Lara L. Hill
Bicycle rally in Maldives to celebrate the 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women and girls. Photo: UN RCO Maldives/Lara L. Hill

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day. 

The campaign was started by activists at the inauguration of the Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991. It continues to be coordinated each year by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. It is used as an organizing strategy by individuals and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

In support of this civil society initiative, the United Nations Secretary-General launched in 2008 the campaign UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women, which runs parallel to the 16 Days of Activism. 

Every year, the UNiTE Campaign focuses on a specific theme. This year’s theme is “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls” and invites everyone to play their role in ending violence against women and girls, show support and solidarity to women’s rights activists and to resist the rollback on women’s rights. You can access the concept note here.

Say No - UNITING SINCE 2009

To support the system-wide UN campaign and build public engagement, UN Women launched Say NO–UNiTE to End Violence against Women as a social mobilization platform in 2009.

During its first phase, more than 5 million people signed a global petition to make ending violence against women a top worldwide priority. Between 2009 and 2013 the campaign also led to over 5 million actions in partnership with over 900 civil society organizations globally.

Actions showcased advocacy efforts by civil society, activists, governments, and the UN system. These ranged from online petitions and social media campaigns to grassroots national awareness-raising initiatives. It included outreach in schools, engaging young people and faith-based organizations and garnering concrete national commitments from governments, and more.

COMMIT initiative

In 2012, ahead of the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women which focused on ending violence against women.  UN Women launched the COMMIT initiative, asking governments to take a stand by making new and concrete national commitments to end violence against women and girls.

By the end of 2013 the European Union as well as 63 nations had joined the initiative, announcing specific measures to address and prevent violence against women and girls. These ranged from passing or improving laws, ratifying international conventions, launching public awareness campaigns, providing safe houses or free hotline services and free legal aid to survivors, supporting education programmes that address gender stereotypes and violence. It has also led to increases in the number of women in law enforcement, peacekeeping forces and frontline services.

Ending gender-based violence in the context of COVID-19

To address the escalation of violence against women and girls in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 the United Nations Secretary-General urged all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women and girls a key part of their national pandemic response plans. The appeal was answered in a statement by 146 Member States and Observers, expressing strong support.

As a follow up the Secretary-General’s Executive Committee adopted a “Political engagement strategy” for the UN system in order to mobilize commitments and action to end gender-based violence in the context of COVID-19.

All governments are called to make commitments and undertake policy actions around four key action areas: Fund, Prevent, Respond and Collect.

Today Say NO–UNiTE has transitioned into a network for social mobilization that continues to showcase advocacy, news, and actions on ending violence against women and girls by people from all walks of life.

A global network to end violence against women and girls

To keep the network informed about key developments and advocacy opportunities, UN Women develops bimonthly action circulars shared with partner organizations and women’s rights activists across the world. 

To join the global UNiTE network you can sign up to receive updates, here. Be part of a global network of people committed to realizing a future that is free from violence against women and girls!

Here is a list of the most recent circulars: 

2022 July/August. Theme: Addressing trafficking as a form of violence against women and girls 

May/June 2022. Theme: Ending violence against women and girls in the context of conflicts

February/March 2022. Theme: Ending violence against women and girls in the context of climate change and the annex to this action circular summarizing the agreed conclusions on CSW66.

October/November 2021. Theme: 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence

August/September 2021. Theme: Collect

June/July 2021. Theme: Respond

April/May 2021. Theme: Prevent

February/March 2021. Theme: Fund

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16 Days of Activism coverage

Access our coverage of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence from previous years:

2021: End violence against women now! 

2020: Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!

2019: Generation Equality Stands against Rape

2018: Orange the World: #HearMeToo

2017: Leave No One Behind

 2016: Invest and mobilize to end violence against women

 2015: Prevent violence against women

 2014: Orange your neighbourhood

 2013: End Violence against Women

 2012: Lets End Violence against Women. Say you commit

 2011: End violence against women and girls

16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence