With a commitment to end violence against women in rural areas, The Hunger Project-India mobilized communities across states to participate in the Violence Against Women campaign from November 25 – December 10. The campaign took place during 16 Days of Violence Against Women, an international campaign that highlights the prevalence of violence against women globally. The Violence Against Women campaign was spearheaded by nearly 3,200 elected women representatives in three states: Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand in 39 Blocks of 45 Districts. The campaign sought to raise awareness of the escalating violence against women, as well as highlight the legal resources available to combat gender violence. Now in its third year, the campaign provided a needed avenue to address gender violence: incidents of harassment, violence and discrimination against women and young girls, rapes, unwed teenage pregnancies, trafficking and sex-selective abortions are on the rise across some states—including Odisha. In the context of recent political developments and subsequent advocacy undertaken by elected women representatives — including demands for good governance, inclusive development and social and gender justice — the Violence Against Women campaign was an opportunity to challenge the social and political structures that allow gender-based violence to continue with impunity, and to advocate for new or improved legislation and policies. Mass awareness was created through numerous activities including the development and dissemination of information, education and communication materials; discussions and dialogues on various laws; speeches; mobile van campaigns; and radio jingles. At the end of the campaign, district-level consultations with prominent government representatives pledged their support to stopping violence against women. The Violence Against Women campaign had significant impacts including:
- In Odisha, women who previously thought violence was a part of every day life now feel that they don’t have to suffer in silence anymore (as shared at a district convention).
- The campaign served to highlight the Federation in Tamil Nadu and Odisha, and was a positive experience for elected women representatives and other women to organize and participate in campaigns; previously, only men used to lead such activities, particularly in rural areas.
- The participation of men, particularly the Male Sarpanch (president of the village council) and other men in leadership roles, showcased the involvement of men in halting gender violence.
- The information, education and communication materials distributed to people in the villages helped spread the message.
- The community, especially women and girls, have become more forthcoming in acknowledging the discrimination and violence they face.
Demand for effective implementation of policies raised by elected women representatives during the course of the campaign will feed into The Hunger Project’s larger advocacy initiatives that are aimed to address inequality and discrimination and protect women and girls against all forms of violence.