Meet 16 Women Working to End Gender Violence Worldwide

By Cindy Dyer

Every day, women around the world are subjected to serious physical and psychological violence and exploitation due to domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking and harmful traditional practices. Vital Voices strives to create a world where women are free from violence by engaging in activities that increase the visibility, skills, support and networking opportunities for women leaders addressing violence against women; increase and improve access to victim services by building partnerships and mobilizing resources; and improve the design and implementation of adequate legal frameworks addressing violence against women. 

As a strong member of the global fight to end violence against women, Vital Voices is proud to support and participate in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, an international awareness campaign which runs from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, until December 10, International Human Rights Day.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute in 1991. The 16 Days of Activism Campaign was established to build awareness about gender-based violence, facilitate networking among women leaders working in this area and to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women. These 16 days culminating on December 10, International Human Rights Day, are an opportunity to bring attention to the critical need to end violence against women in all of its many forms — including domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking and harmful traditional practices — and to celebrate victories in the ongoing effort to create a safer world for our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.  

Vital Voices joins women’s rights organizations around the world in solidarity with the global campaign to end violence against women. We are proud to mark these 16 days by highlighting 16 women in our Global Leadership Network who are working to end gender violence — 365 days a year. Learn more about what they do: advocating for legislation, implementing laws and providing life saving services to victims. For these 16 women, every day is a day for activism against gender violence. 

 

Charm Tong - Charm co-founded SWAN, the Shan Women's Action Network, which attracted global attention with its ground-breaking report, "License to Rape," detailing how the Burmese military uses systematic rape as a weapon against women and girls.

 

Rita Chaikin - Today, through her efforts as the Anti-Trafficking Project Coordinator for Isha L'Isha - Haifa Feminist Center, Rita is helping wipe out trafficking in her country and around the world. Her pioneering programs have helped government and law officials, and non-governmental organizations, better collaborate in identifying, assisting and protecting victims, prosecuting traffickers and educating the public.  

 

Panmela Castro - Panmela is a young multimedia artist from Brazil who uses graffiti and street art to promote social change and awareness. Panmela realizes her vision with the human rights organization Comcausa and Grafiteiras Pela Lei Maria da Penha, a project that links graffiti and urban culture to combating violence against women.  

 

Sohini Chokraborty (left, pictured) - In 2004, Sohini created Kolkata Sanved, an organization that uses dance movement as an alternative approach to rehabilitation of victims of violence and trafficking. Kolkata Sanved also works to intercept young people at risk and rural families who might otherwise fall prey to traffickers.  

 

Oksana Horbunova - Early on in her work with the Ukranian government, Oksana was exposed to an unbelievable truth: a modern-day slave trade, fed by greed and misogyny, was claiming the lives of women around the world. Today, Oksana works with the International Organization for Migration. Her hotline gives a voice to silenced women and reunites many victims with their families.  

 

Marceline Kongolo-Bice - A child of the war-torn Congo, Marceline grew up fleeing from militia gunfire after she refused to marry a local commandant. Once her family settled in Fizi, in southern Congo, Marceline founded SOS Femmes en Dangers, a grassroots NGO that aids rape victims. The organization educates female survivors of violence on their rights, building back the confidence they need to reconnect with their families and communities.  
Sunitha Krishnan - Based in Hyderabad, India, Sunitha is the co-founder of Prajwala (Eternal Flame), a group that rescues women and children from brothels and provides quality education to the children of prostitutes. It stands upon five pillars: prevention, rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and advocacy. Each pillar plays an integral role in a strategy developed over 14 years by dedicated staf and myriad partners.  
Swati Chauhan - Judge Swati Chauhan is the magistrate of Mumbai's specialized court for cases under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act. In this role, she is committed to ending sex trafficking in Mumbai by adjudicating individual cases before her, and by showing the police linkages between cases which have led to arrests of trafficking kingpins. In 2011, she was named a "TIP Report Hero" in the U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report.  
Mukhtar Mai - In Pakistan, female victims of "honor crimes," like Mukhtar, are expected to commit suicide out of shame. Mukhtar took her attackers to court instead. When she won the case, Mukhtar put her compensation money toward building two schools for victims and perpetrators alike, she sees education as the gateway to freedom. Today, the Mukhtar Mai Women's Welfare Organization oversees a crisis center, shelter, clinic, ambulance service, hotline and four schools with 900 enrolled students.  
Chouchou Namegabe - Chouchou is a voice for justice and accountability in the Congo. In 2003, she founded the South Kivu's Women's Media Association (AFEM) to support her activism and train women journalists. With AFEM and through her radio broadcasts, Chouchou shines a spotlight on women's issues, especially in rural areas.  
Somaly Mam - Somaly has been at the forefront of fighting human trafficking in Asia. She co-founded the non-governmental organization AFESIP ("Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances"), which employs holistic victim services and sustained mentorship to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate girls who are forced into prostitution. By bringing attention to the scourge of human trafficking, Somaly shares with the world her personal story while advocating for strengthened criminal laws, increased services for survivors, and greater cooperation among advocates and officials. Somaly continues her work today through the U.S.-based Somaly Mam Foundation.  
Kakenya Ntaiya - Kakenya completed high school in her Masai village, and then negotiated with the village elders to do what no girl before her had ever done: go to college in the United States. Kakenya earned her doctorate in education and is now a passionate activists for girls' education. She has experienced firsthand the freedom and opportunity afforded by a secondary education, and now she's realizing her dream to provide the same for the girls of Enoosaen.  
Ayse Nur Gedik - With a drive to help women experiencing domestic violence, Ayse became involved with KAMER ("Women's Center"), a local women's non-profit in Turkey dedicated to creating social change and ending violence against women. Domestic violence is an issue that is both rampant and widely accepted in Turkey. Using her professional knowledge of money management and business growth, Ayse developed an economic livelihoods program for survivors of domestic violence. KAMER's Entrepreneurship Program trains women survivors of abuse who have applied for emergency aid to create and market products, giving them financial independence and opportunities to support their families.   
Amy Oyekunle - Amy stands at the heart of the women's movement in Nigeria. As executive director of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), an NGO that advances democracy and development in Africa by supporting women's and girls' leadership, she has overseen the training of 2,900 young women in economic empowerment and prevention of gender-based violence.  
Marina Pisklakova-Parker - In 1993, Marina established the first and only hotline for victims of domestic violence in Russia. No shelters existed. No laws prohibited abuse. No advocacy campaigns counseled victims or educated perpetrators. There was silence - except at Center ANNA, where the phone rang over and over, alerting Marina to callers' desperation and ultimately compelling her to break the once-deafening silence. Today, she is inspiring a network of rising voices to share her mantle of leadership and ensure that the campaign against domestic violence survives and succeeds well into the future.  
Wang Xingjuan - In 1988, Wang and a group of colleagues founded a women's research institute to pinpoint strategies for women's employment and political participation in China. Their research confirmed the difficulties that women have faced in transitioning country, from unemployment to domestic violence. In response to these findings, Wang launched China's first women's hotline in 1992. Today, it fields 600 calls each month and has evolved into the Maple Women's Counseling Center, which offers women a healing space while educating the community on gender-sensitivity.  

 

Cindy Dyer is Vice President for Human Rights at Vital Voices. 

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