16 Days of Activism is an International Campaign which takes places between the 25th of November and 10th of December each year. The key aim and purpose of 16 days is to use these 16 Days to take action on preventing and eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls. The global event was sparked in 1991 by the first Women’s Global campaign and this year marks the 30th anniversary. Despite 30 years since the campaign’s inception and the people that the campaign has reached around the world – Violence Against Women and Girls in Scotland and around the world remains rife, and its impacts are devastating.
The 16 Days of Activism Campaign is a significant event in our calendars, however, action on Violence Against Women and building a safer world for Women and Girls is a job for all of us every day.
1 in 3 Women aged 15 years and older around the world have been subjected to physical or sexual violence at least once. It’s widely acknowledged that COVID-19 has exacerbated all the risk factors for VAWG, including unemployment and poverty, and reinforced many of the root causes such as gender stereotypes and harmful social norms.
In addition to the impact of COVID-19, global violent conflicts, humanitarian crises and climate-related disasters are affecting more people than ever before, with a disproportionate impact on women and girls.
In this challenging context our efforts to prevent and eliminate VAWG need to continue with the same vigour during the 16 Days of Activism and throughout the year.
The urgent need to take action on VAW in Scotland was replicated at our most recent STUC Women’s Conference. At our Women’s Conference this year many delegates bravely spoke of their own experiences of sexual harassment, abuse and gender-based violence. They shared their very personal stories which highlighted the continued struggle against harassment, abuse and violence that women experience globally every day in their workplaces, their homes and on the streets. And made clear demands on government and employers to tighten legislation, shift the blame from the individual and ensure that there is robust and independent reporting’s mechanisms at work, polices such as flexible working, paid sick leave, zero-tolerance approaches, and wider support infrastructures such as well-funded, accessible and adequate services to support Women experiencing violence.
Violence Against Women is a Workplace Issue and Trade Union Issue. We have been campaigning for action on VAW for decades, but the reality it that it isn’t going away and has intensified. Violence Against Women is unacceptable. It is preventable. And all of us must make it out mission to do more. This can not be left to the women and the victims. We need our male counterparts to take action. For too long the onus has been on Women and the blame has been shifted to the women; the reality is that it is men whose behaviour needs to change and workplaces play a critical role in ensuring the workplace can be a safe heaven for Women.
As part of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence and our wider work on tackling GBV and Sexual Harassment at Work, the STUC Women’s Committee have launched a survey to gather Women in Scotland’s views on their experiences of Sexual Harassment at Work. Research by the TUC has shown that more than half of women across the UK have experienced sexual harassment at work. The survey will build on these findings with a view to gaining a deeper understanding of how this can be tackled in Scotland most effectively.
Sexual Harassment at Work might be illegal on paper, but in practice we know that Sexual Harassment at Work is widespread. The persistence of Sexual Harassment at Work in Scotland is unacceptable, avoidable and completely incompatible with Fair Work, Equality and Safe Working Conditions.
We are urging all women across Scotland to support our survey. The views and experiences we gather will be in invaluable in helping to increase our lobbying, campaigning and industrial demands on employers and government.
To complete our survey, please click here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/J8ZKMWN
Please continue to ensure that your workplaces have violence against women and gender-based violence at work policies and please support our survey and campaign.
Guest blog by Fiona Steel, Aegis the Union