Honoring the International Day Against Violence Against Women
Introduction to the GDI Brown Bag on Gendered Violence
by Sundra Flansburg
The Gender, Diversities & Technology Institute is
proud to host this panel today, in honor of November 25, the International
Day Against Violence Against Women. For those of you not so familiar
with the institute, GDI works to leverage the power of diversity
to improve education and work. The Institute's research and programs
use the lens of gender and its intersections with race, ethnicity,
economic status, disability and sexual orientation to deepen our
understanding of critical social problems and to create effective
As an introduction, I'd like to frame this discussion
by sharing a very basic description of what gender violence is,
which I'm sure the panelists will add depth to and even challenge.
When we talk about gender violence, traditionally
we speak of such violence as sexual harassment, rape, battering,
assault, murder, homophobic violence, and violence against transgendered
people--all based on deeply ingrained gender-role stereotypes and
This type of violence often occurs as a means of
social control of women and girls, and often occurs when individuals,
particularly women and girls, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals,
attempt to or do step out of traditionally defined gender roles.
But it is also targeted against people who face societal discrimination
or devaluing based on their gender.
I also want to add that since sexuality is such a
central pillar of societal expectations and limitations, sexual
violence is often used as a weapon of control, and victims are often
targeted because of their sexuality or the violence is justified
because of victims stepping outside of rigid roles.
Today, we focus specifically on violence against
women. Gender violence affects every aspect of women's lives, because
violence impacts not just those who are its direct victims--in terms
of physical, sexual, and psychological violence. Violence and the
threat of violence limit women's ability to participate in public
activities, walk in city streets, voice or even have opinions in
their homes, gain an education, participate in training programs,
care for their children and loved ones, and every other aspect of
This social control, the fear of violence, the internalized
socially-impressed fear of provoking violence or being in some way
responsible for it by being outside after dark, by going into the
wrong public space at the wrong time, by inviting the wrong person
into your home, whether or not you are an actual victim of violence,
controls every woman's life to some extent.
If you operate programs that include women or girls,
or that want to include women and girls, you are dealing at some
level with the issue of violence against women.
Today we want to take this space to nurture ourselves,
and share some of the good work that is happening in terms of prevention.
We do this to honor November 25, and to get an early start on the
16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which runs from the
25th through December 10.
November 25 was declared International Day Against
Violence Against Women at the First Feminist Encuentro for Latin
America and the Caribbean, held in Bogota in July 1981. The 25th
was chosen to commemorate the violent assassination of political
activists for democracy Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa Mirabal
by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.
The UN officially recognized the day in 1999.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is
an international campaign that links November 25 with December 10,
International Human Rights Day--to symbolically link violence against
women with the fact that this is a violation of human rights. It
encompasses December 1, World AIDS Day, and December 6, the anniversary
of the Montreal Massacre.
The 16 days campaign is used primarily as an organizing
strategy around the world to call for the elimination of all forms
of violence against women, by:
- Raising awareness
- Strengthening local work
- Linking local and international work
- Pressuring governments to implement the promises made
I'm pleased to introduce this panel of colleagues from the Gender
and Diversities Institute:
Penninah Ogada, senior research associate,
a native of Kenya and former teachers, she is passionate about this
issue and its affects on the education of girls in that country
Terri Boyer Tillbrook, director of technical
assistance for the WEEA Equity Resource Center, and formerly the
coordinator of a gender violence prevention project in Alabama
Gabriella Canepa, director of the Breaking
Barriers project, with significant experience internationally in
the area of violence against women, especially in Latin America
And myself, Sundra Flansburg, director of
the WEEA Equity Resource Center. I've participated in several projects
in the area of gender violence and got especially educated and active
during my six years in Costa Rica, where I also wrote by thesis
on women's sexual and reproductive rights, where violence was a
centrally defining feature especially of women's sexuality.
Each panelist will talk briefly about her work and
then we will open up for questions and discussions.