The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign runs every year from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December 2023 (Human Rights Day) raising awareness and educating the community on this important issue but why aren’t we talking about 365 days of action?
By Jacquelene Pearson
Greetings from a family and gender-based violence hot spot. The NSW Central Coast consistently has one of the highest number of incidences of family and domestic violence compared to any other local government area. Statistics show the Central Coast had the third-highest number of domestic violence related incidences in NSW (BOSCAR period June 2022 – 2023). We are also consistently over-represented in statistics for Breach of Apprehended Violence Order.
According to the Administrator of Central Coast Council, Rik Hart, “Family, domestic and sexual violence occurs across all ages, socioeconomic and demographic groups but mainly affects women and children, Indigenous women, young women, pregnant women and people with a disability.”
Local events in support of the national campaign against family and gender-based violence during the 16 days of action include:
Walk against Domestic and Family Violence: Wednesday 6 December, 10am, Starts at the Anglican Church Gosford (7 Mann Street) to Kibble Park, Gosford, Presented by the Central Coast Domestic Violence Committee. Community members are encouraged to collect an orange shirt on the day to show support for this important campaign, before participating in the annual awareness raising walk around Kibble Park. There will also be guest speakers, live entertainment, information stalls and more.
Art installation in Kibble Park: 04 December – 13 December, Visitors to Kibble Park, Gosford may notice two dimensional houses suspended from a Jacaranda tree in Kibble Park. The houses represent the home, a place that should be safe but where domestic violence often occurs. By placing them in the tree it signifies the need to bring this issue into the public eye and address it collectively. Crocheted remembrance flowers made by CWA community members at the base of the tree pay tribute to the victims, while solar lights inside the houses symbolise breaking the silence and ending the cycle of abuse.
Zonta Tree Yarn Bombing: 24 November-11 December, Kibble Park, Gosford. The “Yarn Bomb”, a project of Zonta Club of Central Coast, shows in a colourful and inclusive way what we can do to end the scourge of domestic and family violence, the many different forms of domestic violence explained and actions to promote change. Help and support information for both victims and bystanders will be provided as part of the installation.
Sneak preview on children’s story book: 24 November-13 December, Kibble Park, Visitors to the park will be able to preview special pages of a story book being developed by Council. The story book targets preschool aged children to promote positive, age-appropriate messages, about healthy, respectful relationships and valuing people of all genders.
Town centre banners: 25 November-10 December, Gosford and Tuggerah. Motorists and commuters travelling over Brian McGowan Bridge in Gosford or along Tuggerah Straight will notice an array of banners on display focusing on changing the attitudes and behaviours of perpetrators as well as encouraging help seeking behaviour in victim survivors.
Whilst rates of family and gender-based violence on the NSW Central Coast are disturbing, violence against women and girls remains the most “pervasive human rights violation around the world. Gender-based violence transcends age, race, culture, socio-economic status and borders,” according to UN Women Australia.
“We know that 1 in 3 women will experience violence in their lifetime,” UN Women Australia reports.
“While decades of campaigning has put ending gender-based violence high on national and international agendas, there is still not enough being done to prevent violence. This year, we are focused on turning the 16 Days of Activism in to 365 Days of Action – because women have the right to be SAFE. EVERYWHERE. ALWAYS.
“This 16 Days, we are sharing our message of Safe. Everywhere. Always. as a call to action to come together and commit to meaningful change. We all have a role to play in making safer spaces for women everywhere and always.
“There are many ways to be actively involved in preventing gender-based violence, like amplifying the voices of survivors, getting involved in community mobilisation, helping to create safe online spaces, or raising funds to support women’s organisations. Every effort invested in preventing violence against women is a step towards a safer, more equal, and prosperous world.
Counting Dead Women Australia count every known death of a woman due to violence in Australia. At last count in November, the toll for the year was 56 and the latest death happened on the Central Coast.
“Just after 12am on November 15th police allege a man broke into an aged care facility in Bateau Bay where he violently attacked a woman aged in her 90s,” reported the Counting Dead Women Australia facebook page.
“The victim, who has not been formally identified, was taken to hospital suffering serious injuries and died on November 28th. Brett Crawford (34) has been charged with multiple offences, including aggravated sexual assault and inflicting grievous bodily harm. Police are preparing a report for the coroner and have confirmed that investigations into the incident are continuing and that upgraded charges could be laid.”
Delia Donovan, CEO of DVNSW, said, “It’s hard to quantify the devastating losses people are experiencing right now due to domestic violence…We can estimate the $5.1 billion cost of domestic and family violence in Australia each year. But the real loss – of a community member and a family member – is impossible to quantify in words or numbers.
“Next month (December) will be a critical time our sector,” she said.
“Governments are preparing their budgets for the coming year. Preparations are also underway for the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. With the NSW budget forecast to return to surplus in 2024-2025, DVNSW will be calling on the NSW Government to provide the critically needed funding for the domestic and family violence services, as well as a serious injection into primary prevention funding. We know this isn’t on government alone but will pull every lever available to us including ongoing advocacy for much more whole of community prevention work,” Donovan said.
Meanwhile, Sustainable Population Australia (SPA) has claimed that denying women access to contraception is a form of violence. SPA national president Jenny Goldie said women and adolescent girls must have the right to decide if or when they have sex, and if and when to have children.
“To deny women and adolescent girls that right is coercion; a form of violence,” says Ms Goldie. “Delaying pregnancy enables adolescents to remain in school to pursue further education. It can lead to work that empowers them socially and economically.
“Contraception reduces not just unwanted pregnancies but also death from unsafe abortion and maternal deaths in childbirth. “Women and adolescent girls are denied access to modern contraception in a number of ways including: limited choice of methods and services; cultural or religious opposition; and gender-based barriers to accessing services.”
According to a study published in The Lancet last year, 160 million women worldwide had unmet contraception needs in 2019, despite significant progress in the use of modern contraceptives globally over the previous 50 years.
“This study also revealed that more than half the women with unmet need for contraception live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” says Ms Goldie. “It also found that younger women had the highest levels of unmet need, despite being the group for whom the economic and social benefits of contraceptive access are likely to be most substantial.”
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.7.1 target states: By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.
“SPA calls on the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy MP, to better fund sexual and reproductive health services (SRH) in Australia’s overseas development program to help ensure SDG 3.7.1 is realised.”
There is much to be done around the issue of stopping family and gender-based violence, from the local through to the global level. The 16 days of activism is critically important to raise awareness of this ongoing problem. Let’s keep the conversations and the activism going for the next 12 months!
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