Today’s post marks the final day of the 16 Days of Activism, which span from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to Human Rights Day, focusing throughout on ways to eliminate gender-based violence. Two years ago (2019, ‘Day 16 – Why Do We Do It?’) our Human Rights Day post offered some reflection; this one does, too.
I often think about a woman I met years ago. She had grown up in appalling and chaotic circumstances, her early life marred by violence and abuse. By then, she was living a life that was peaceful and made her content. She told me that what turned things for her was an incident shortly after one of her family members shouted aggressively at her in the street—something to her unremarkable, which she had barely even registered. But then a stranger looked her in the eye and said, ‘I want you to know that this is not okay.’ She says it startled her, and that after this, she would say ‘this is not okay’, like a mantra, whenever things at home got difficult. From then, she determined, things would be different.
That’s stayed with me.
Looking back over Shiloh Project posts from 2021, it has been a full-on year, and our posts cover many themes: from using artwork to talk, or teach about gender-based violence, to multiple reflections on purity culture; from new books and icons featuring women, to rape culture in Bangladesh and rape of men in rabbinical literature; from introducing activist Erin Sessions, and ‘Misogynoir to Mishpat’, a new venture amplifying Black women theologians and religionists, to introducing the Avisa Project on the history of sexual harassment. We’ve had a pushback series on abusiveness against academics, as well as posts on Proverbs 31, white rage in Buddhist studies, on marriage, online teaching about sexual violence, and on Naomi Alderman’s novel Disobedience. We can’t be accused of being predictable!
Over the past 16 Days, we’ve also found things to celebrate: achievements, awards, and appointments; publications, podcasts, and progress.
But 2021 has been another tough year. Climate change, war, migration, corruption, Covid-19…—all have contributed to preventable loss of life, poverty, growing inequalities, as well as to gender-based violence. Even amid our celebrations of inspirational activism over these past days, there has been mention of aid cuts, cuts in higher education, and rising cases of domestic violence and abuse. On a much bigger scale, the same kinds of co-realities appear in the UN Women’s Annual Report. And now, with horror stories from lockdowns, and of the fate of those left behind, as well as those escaped from Afghanistan, and of persons trafficked into indentured labour and sex slavery, emerging, any glimpses of good news can feel like straws plucked, desperately, from a giant bale of miseries.
There are things we and our supporters do—donating, fundraising, consciousness raising, staying informed, incorporating information about GBV and its prevention into our teaching, research, funding applications and publications, forming collaborations, looking out for those we encounter and offering support or making referrals…—but it can feel like very little.
Still, it remains important to mark the 16 Days. It remains important to keep activating, and each and together to do what we can, or what is manageable. It’s a way to feel less defeated by the massive things that need sustained action and it’s a way to remember that little actions achieve steps along the way. I’m not a person of faith but I have faith in that.
See you next year for the 16 Days?