by Sara Ferrer Olivella the Resident Representative at UNDP Jordan


A few days after the end of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence frenzy, it might be time to pause and reflect for a moment or two. What went well and what can we do better? Fighting injustice and gender inequality is an arduous mission that does not begin nor finish with 16 Days of Activism. It is a relentless march of removing blind spots and breaking barriers to challenge our own biases, our own stereotypes and comfort zones within our own family, community, friends and peers.

During the 16 Days, I witnessed enormous energy, commitment and inspiration from survivors and activists who shared their journeys of self-discovery and thriving against all odds. I also thank my team at UNDP who engaged local CBOs, media, INGOs and national partners with determination to push for multiple formats, audiences and the application of interactive tools during the 16 Days.

At the same time, it appears that with the exponential growth of events this year, 16 Days of Activism against GBV has turned into a race to the bottom in a deregulated market of 16 Days Zoom events. Most often, this manifests in an excessive number of 60 minutes events packed with an average of 20 main speakers, 10 guest speakers, five expert panelists, and a three minutes Q&A session for the presumed incapacitated audience — now more asleep than awake. For those humans on the other side of the screen who are still breathing when we reach the marginalized Q&A session gone 60 minutes overtime, it is not only exhausting; it is painful.

I do wonder whether the multitude battery of events and line-up of endless speakers with pre-cooked speeches in the virtual world have any impact in fighting violence in our societies. Mind you, we live in a world where one-in-three women will experience physical or sexual violence by those who are meant to respect and care for them. And this figure has remained constant despite our yearly campaign.

Despite the lack of impact, we do the same thing year in year out presumably expecting a different result. We ought to do much better. So let me share three lessons that I learnt from this year’s 16 Days of Activism campaign which can help us go beyond 16 Days:

First, it should not be about ‘ticking boxes’ with lots of speakers, unidirectional speeches and success measures by the number of participants logged into a virtual gathering. Our increased freedom to organize these events has negatively affected our ability to critically evaluate what’s relevant, what’s interesting, and what’s transformational. Organizing massive Zoom webinars with a click of a button comes with great responsibility and needs to be approach with a bit of humility. The alternative is Zoom-tivism, which means 16 Days in free fall without transformational change in sight.

Rather, it should be about having a meaningful dialogue and exchange on how each one of those who engage can take deliberate and bold action to fight gender-based violence from wherever one sits. It can be a giant leap or a baby step. The point is that we move in the right direction.

Second, we cannot afford any longer to talk among ourselves i.e. women only. I dare to say that in most of the events I joined, by and large women were the only participants. Importantly, most were urban women and part of group of the ‘usual suspects.’ We need to effectively engage men from all walks of life. We need their views and commitment towards positive masculinity.

And third, let us all brush up on our 101-campaigning class and the key ingredients of good campaigning: The best events have in common a clear purpose with a defined topic targeting a specific audience with the potential to trigger a spark to action.

To make it clear, 16 Days of Activism against GBV is an important campaign. Especially in times of Covid-19, it is more important than ever before. Collectively, we need to sharpen the pen and make sure that 16 Days of Activism against GBV is more than a box-ticking exercises which can lead to real changes globally as well as in Jordan.

So I am not asking anyone to stop campaigning. I am just asking everyone to try harder so we can truly unleash the transformational change during and beyond 16 Days of Activism against GBV.


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