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16 days of activism against gender violence, minority women and girls share their stories

22 November 2012

Every year since 1991, the 16 days of activism against gender violence campaign calls for an end to gender-based violence, and appeals to governments to respond, protect, and prevent violence against women.

The 16 Days Campaign begins on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25) and ends on International Human Rights Day (December 10), to emphasize that such violence is a human rights violation.

This year’s Campaign theme, From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women! highlights the role that militarism plays in perpetuating violence against women and girls.

During the campaign, MRG, which has a long history of working in the area of conflict prevention, will highlight the many ways women and girls from minority and indigenous communities experience violence during conflict, or its often complicated aftermath.

Our hope is that by publishing their stories we can encourage the international community to ensure meaningful and effective ways to engage these women in building long and lasting peaceful solutions to those very conflicts affecting them.

Due to their membership of a minority or indigenous group, women and girls’ vulnerability to violence in a conflict situation is often heightened.

“Women from minority communities are specifically and frequently targeted for attacks by both States and armed opposition groups,” says Chris Chapman, Head of Conflict Prevention at MRG.

In war and in peacetime, minority women are singled out for rape because they are less protected and have little access to justice or to decision-making processes.

In countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan and Burma, women from minority and indigenous communities have suffered systematic sexual and other violence specifically because of their ethnic, religious, tribal or indigenous identity.

In several countries minority women form a disproportionate number of those displaced due to conflict.

In Colombia, a majority of displaced Afro-Colombians are women, many of whom head households, and face violence and sexual abuse from government forces and paramilitaries.

Whilst many women from minority groups actively seek solutions at the community level, their contribution has never been properly acknowledged and they are rarely invited to take part in peace-building processes at the national level.