Women’s Aid Northern Ireland is taking part in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence*, beginning today on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ending on 10 December, International Human Rights Day.
This year, the focus of the 16 Days is on militarism, the link between small arms possession and violence against women, and institutionalised state violence, themes of particular relevance to women in Northern Ireland.
Women’s Aid will release messages throughout the 16 Days, reflecting on themes relating to gender-based violence, conflict and gender equality. Our local Women’s Aid groups are also hosting events across Northern Ireland to raise awareness of the vital support services we provide for women and children affected by domestic violence.
Gender Based Violence and Conflict
The link between conflict and gender is a stark one. As former UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Yakin Erturk reflects:
What is common to all conflict situations is that they are intimately connected to patriarchy.
16 years have passed since the Good Friday Agreement, yet we as a society are still struggling to deal with the legacy of the conflict. The Troubles in Northern Ireland impacted on women uniquely, yet women’s voices are still not being heard. There has as yet been no research to assess the extent of sexual violence related to the conflict, in spite of the recognition that sexual violence and other forms of violence were perpetrated against women. Women continue to be excluded from the talks tables, and underrepresented at all levels of decision making and government.
Women’s Aid is committed to supporting women from all walks of life and from all communities who have been affected by domestic, sexual or other forms of gender-based violence. Our network of refuges across Northern Ireland provide a safe space for women and their children who are suffering domestic violence, and we offer outreach support services to enable women to stay in their homes while receiving support. Our 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to all women and men affected by domestic and sexual violence.
Our vision for the 21st century is the elimination of domestic and sexual violence. We believe that this is only possible if we as a society address the violence in our past, and recognise that it continues to impact upon our present.
*The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.