GEMSA and the Sixteen Days of Activism

GEMSA and the Sixteen Days of Activism

Date: August 10, 2009
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What is the sixteen days campaign?

The sixteen days of activism against gender violence runs from the 25th of November to the 10th of December each year. 25 November is the international day for prevention of violence against women. The day was originally declared by a group of women in latin america and the caribbean in 1981 to commemorate the deaths of the Mirabel sisters brutally murdered in the dominican republic for speaking out for human rights. The united nations recognized this as an international date in its calendar in 1991. Other significant dates within the sixteen days of activism are:

  • 1 December: world aids day
  • 3 December: international day for the disabled
  • 6 December: anniversary of the montreal massacre, when a gun man shot dead a group of engineering students for allegedly being feminists.
  • 10 December: international human rights day


Gender and Media Southern African (GEMSA) is an umbrella organisation of individuals and institutions who work to promote gender equality in and through the media. GEMSA has its roots in the historic Southern African gender and media summit attended by 184 participants from around the region as well as international observers in September 2004. During the summit countries reported on progress towards achieving greater gender sensitivity and balance in the media following the gender and media baseline study in 2002 that showed that women comprise 17 percent of news sources in southern africa, and are often portrayed in limited roles, such as sex symbols or victims of violence. Under the banner “making every voice count” the summit showcased a range of concrete steps that have been taken at policy level, in media practice and training, and as part of advocacy initiatives by NGOs, to balance the scales.


Members include the media institute of southern africa and its country chapters; Gender Links and affiliated gender and media networks in eight countries; the federation of african media women and country affiliates; editors forums; media training institutions; media NGOs including the media monitoring projects in the region; NGOs that promote gender justice and media practitioners. The network is overseen by a committee that consists of country representatives; representatives of the different interest groups and an executive committee with a chair, deputy chair, treasurer and secretary. Members will meet every two years. The secretariat of GEMSA is currently hosted by gender links and misa.


GEMSA has four major programme areas: policy, training and capacity building, research and monitoring, as well advocacy. The sixteen days of activism campaign forms part of GEMSA’s advocacy activities. It is an attempt to forge practical links between those affected by gender violence, activists and the media, as part of the broader campaign to “make every voice count.” GEMSA believes that the sixteen days of activism is a unique opportunity to raise public awareness on the most glaring reflections of gender inequalities in the region: gender violence and hiv/aids and to enlist the support of the media is challenging these two scourges.


  • A common cause and identity: at a workshop soon after the gender and media summit GEMSA representatives devised a logo and theme for the regional campaign: “peace begins at home: united against gender violence and hiv/aids” that has since been adopted by the committee. The centre-piece of the campaign is the red and white ribbon that has been put on the map by the nisaa institute for women’s development. This symbolizes gender violence and hiv aids, as well as the link between the two. GEMSA has also helped to devise sixteen themes for the sixteen days to help focus the campaign.
  • The media: working with its media partners, GEMSA is engaging with media houses across the region to persuade them to devote time, space and resources to coverage of the campaign. In many countries, contacts are being made with the public broadcaster to ensure that there is at least one story a day on the campaign and that it is cascaded in talk shows, entertainment programming, and in mention of the campaign by news readers.
  • GEM opinion and commentary service: GEMSA is working with gender links to produce a special bulletin of opinion pieces that will run during the sixteen day campaign and will be marketed with editors in advance. These will be a combination of expert pieces as well as first person or “i” accounts written by survivors of gender violence as well as by rehabilitated perpetrators.
  • Cyber dialogues and the internet: different networks in the region are looking at how best to make use of the internet for their campaigns consistent with local capacity and considerations (link to mwo site when this is up). GEMSA members will also be encouraged to post messages on the bulletin board of the South African cyber dialogue campaign as well as log into the daily discussions. The cyber dialogues will be preceded by a region-wide opinion survey on gender violence that GEMSA will help to popularise in each country. Summaries of activities in each country during the sixteen days will feature in a daily e newsletter to all members.
  • Audit of the SADC addendum on preventing and eradicating violence against women and children: GEMSA chapters are participating in a region-wide audit of measures taken by each country to comply with the addendum to the SADC declaration on gender and development on eradicating violence against women and children.
  • Video conference: GEMSA chapters will help to organise a video conference to link all those involved in the campaign across Southern Africa on 10 December, international human rights day, in partnership with the British Council.
  • Media monitoring: at least four GEMSA members, the South African gender and media network (SAGEM) media watch organiation (Mauritius) and the media monitoring project Zimbabwe will be monitoring media coverage of gender violence before and after the campaign. The results of this monitoring will give a useful “mirror on the media” for future campaigns.

Download : Addendum to the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development on eradicating violence against women and children

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