Today marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and commences the Global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. To celebrate this, we hear from 2023 Diana Award recipient and passionate gender equality activist and advocate, Amaleehah Aslam-Forrester, who aims to inspire action and raise awareness of global violence against women and girls.
Today, on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we confront a pervasive issue that transcends borders and cultures. What was once thought of as a gendered issue only affecting women, we now see as a complex and multi-layered endemic problem in our current society, which actually affects us all. Violence against women and girls is a violation of human rights, which is deeply rooted in the current systems of our time. We all, as individuals alive today, can change the systems around us to end violence against women and girls. We all have a role to play, everyday – not just today.
This awareness day can be triggering for some and felt deeply by many as it is a reminder of the continuing battle against violence targeting women and girls globally. But today is also a day for us to raise our voices and shout out, question, discuss, share, learn and raise awareness of the structures and systems that perpetuate this form of harm and the actions that we can all take to prevent violence against women and girls continuing exclusively and collectively.
To help you envision this change, I would like you to take a moment – let’s imagine a world where violence against women and girls no longer exists. What would need to happen to get there? Who could you contact to facilitate this? What does society need to? What does your circle around you need to do? What could YOU do?
WHY IS THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IMPORTANT_
• A woman is killed by a man every three days.
• Two women a week fall victim to murder by a partner, ex-partner, or close relative.
• Almost one in three women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime.
• Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse.
• Just 1.6% of reported rapes result in charges or summons.
• Black victims of domestic abuse are 1.5 times less likely to have charges brought than white victims.
These statistics aren't the fault of isolated individuals but are rooted in the structures of society that have enabled this violence to persist over time. It is these very systems that we must question, confront and dismantle. Ending gender-based violence is an issue we can unite against together.
WHAT WORK AM I DOING TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE_
With lived experience of gender-based violence and as a witness to the unequal world around me, I want to make a difference. Like so many out there who want to make the world a better place and stand up for injustice, the question of HOW, has always been of great importance. This is the story of my work and I hope that it shows you that YOU (as a normal individual alike me) – can also join the fight to end violence against women and girls and create a better the world for all.
My journey has been one of collaboration and storytelling… At the age of 16, I acted in the Bristol based charity Integrate UK’s ‘Onur’ film, raising awareness of honour-based violence. This was an emotional, powerful and liberating experience and so began my journey into social action. Progressing through the charity as a youth worker with a commitment to supporting young people, I project managed the development of two educational films which are now used in UK schools to promote conversations on topics relating to gender and racial in-equality. The films, co-developed with 160 young people across 4 Bristol schools, raise awareness of topics relating to sexual harassment and racism and the importance of allyship. These films are led by young people who share their lived experience to co-create powerful stories and develop solutions to problems they themselves identify. Through delivering these films as educational workshops in UK schools which evoke necessary conversations about violence against women and girls, these films illustrate the power of storytelling to challenge our society as we know it, change mindsets and drive social-change.
The films are viewable here:
At the age of 16, social media became my platform for empowerment. My Instagram means a lot to me, sharing messages of activism against a system, culture and society that perpetuates the control and objectification of women and girls worldwide. I like to explore identity and female empowerment and share my lifestyle as a message to say that women can do what they want, be who they want and wear what they want! During the covid-19 pandemic, I set up 13 feminist group chats to support more than 12,000 women and girls who were experiencing isolation during lockdown. Today, we still message and arrange picnics and book-clubs! Empowering young women to lead the change they wish to see; I delivered UK youth’s EmpowerHER programme to support the well-being of 81 girls in Bristol and enabling them to tackle gender inequality within their own communities.
Currently, I'm a postgraduate student, pursuing an MSc in Development Studies (Gender Pathway) at The School Of Oriental And African Studies in London, and have just joined The SOAS Feminist Society as their Vice President, where I am excited to learn and develop. I have chosen to pursue this degree to engage in ending violence against women and girls globally. I may have been told that I couldn't change the world, but with every step we have taken, it’s evidenced that we can. From changing minds in the classroom, to challenging gender stereotypes in my own family and community, to making films that call out social in justice and allowing others to question the world around them, I have witnessed that change is possible. Ending violence against women and girls, starts with talking about it. It starts with raising awareness and it starts with you.
So, let us unite our voices, stand up against violence, and work together for a more equal and just world.
HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED_
In today's digital world, activism is at our fingertips. We can all be advocates for change. Start by addressing violence within your own circles and communities. Use your voice to speak up, educate yourself, and engage with content that challenges the world as you know it. It's vital to have conversations with family and friends that challenge harmful beliefs and behaviours. Making time to understand the deeper underpinnings of gendered violence, such as how capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism have historically enabled gender-based violence, is crucial. Educate yourself, amplify voices, and contribute to the ongoing conversation about how to change the world as we know it – it’s happening and you can be a part of it. Our power to effect change is not limited by geography. By acting locally, we can change things globally. Unite against violence, fight for equality, and stand with women and girls, not just today, but every day. Together, we can and will and ARE developing a world where violence against women and girls no longer exists.
Learn more here with a few of my favourite sources of learning:
• What is honour-based abuse – My article