Posted by: Ana Monroy | December 10, 2010

16 Days of Activism marked around the world

Between 25 November, International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women, and 10 December, International Human Rights Day are the annual 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence. UNHCR staff and refugee and displaced communities around the world organize activities to raise awareness and show their commitment to end such violence, which disproportionately affects women and girls.

UNHCR staff gather in the atrium of the headquarters building to spell out “NO” at the start of the 16 Days of Activism.

During this year’s 16 Days of Activism, UNHCR participates in the UN Secretary-General’s “Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence against Women” campaign. Staff and refugee and displaced communities contributed through videos and pictures.

Some of the pictures can be viewed on UNHCR’s Flickr page (more will be added):

UNHCR marks 16 Days of Activism around the world

Below are a few examples of the many activities organized around the world:

members of a community support group in Kakuma show their commitment to end gender-based violence.

In Kenya, many activities were organized with different refugee and host communities. For the opening of the 16 Days of Activism in Dadaab, staff and partners assembled very early in the morning and equipped with ribbons and NO-signs, jointly marched through the city of Dadaab, singing and advocating.

Staff then split up to go to the three different refugee camps, to join various ceremonies and celebrations taking placed there.

In Kakuma refugee camp, refugee, UNHCR staff and partners discussed common forms of gender-based violence such as early and forced marriage, FGM, honor killings, domestic violence, and psychological violence. They also participated in processions, trainings and films screenings.

UNHCR Bosnia’s “BOMBONE” campaign poster.

In Bosnia, the UNHCR office organized a campaign called “5 min to 12 o’clock/Bonbons (BOMB/ONE) instead of Bombs”.  The campaign plays with the word bonbons (“bombone”) in the

Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian languages, which split in two means “BOMB” (a bomb) and “ONE” (meaning they-women). “What we wanted is to send a clear message about intersections of militarism and violence against women by symbolically distributing bonbons instead of bombs”.

Distribution of awareness raising materials in Mostar, Bosnia

Staff distributed posters and pamphlets with messages, white ribbons, balloons and sweets/bonbons (bomboni) with the messages: “Stop bombs! Give bonbons instead of bombs! Stop violence against women!” to the general public on main town squares in the three cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo, Mostar and Prijedor), where most asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless persons live. People could write on the posters their own messages of support to the victims of violence and to this campaign. A 13 year old girl wrote: “Everyone has a right to live, work, and have a normal life without prejudice, without fear of other people, without insult and cussing, without provocation and humiliation. All this is, with one word, called violence. All people in the world are the same, and no one should perform violence against anyone.” All messages will be incorporated into a single narrative that will be forwarded to relevant legislative and executive governmental institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as international organizations.

In Baraka, Democratic Republic of Congo, the 16 Days started with a march and speeches by staff of different organisations in the big Catholic parish in town. UNHCR staff encouraged men and boys to wear white ribbons to show their commitment to eradicating sexual and gender-based violence. In line with this year’s 16 Days theme (“Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence against Women”), an exercise was done to define the interactions between militarism and violence against women. Participants mentioned the risks of violence women face in militarized zones, the use of rape as a weapon of war, and the separation of families in zones considered too dangerous for women.

Staff, refugees and displaced persons in Bukavu, DRC, march through the streets on the opening of the 16 Days of Activism, 25 November (©UNHCR/P. Dan)

In Goma, dancers from nine ethnic groups in North Kivu performed an awareness raising sketch showing young males campaigning against sexual violence in North Kivu, and a second piece on gender-based violence linked to a land dispute. Read more on

The 16 Days of Activism were also marked in Colombia, where one in six displaced women is a victim of sexual violence. Read more about what UNHCR and partners do in the country to address this scourge:

These are some video clips contributed by different UNHCR offices as part of the “Say No – UNiTE to End Violence against Women” campaign:

UNHCR Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


UNHCR Algeria


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