Lavendar background with streaks of people holding signs running down from top right side of image. Signs read, "push forward: act to end violence against women and girls" and "#16Days."

Our Bodies, Our Choice

By Micaela Crighton and Fiona Vowell

Winnipeg was lit up orange last night, recognizing the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. The 16 Days occur every year between November 25 and December 10, which is Human Rights Day, to link women’s rights to human rights and highlight gender-based violence as a human rights issue.

Last year our focus was on the regression of our rights and the intrinsic connection that had to gender-based violence. 2022 has only amplified these regressions, such as the Freedom Convoy co-opting the language of reproductive choice, the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, and the increased transphobic and homophobic rhetoric and actions taken against members of the Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ community. We have seen that the 2020s are shaping up to be a decade of fights to protect our gains from decades past and ensure that we do not lose the progressive direction of our movement simultaneously. 

This year, in light of this continued regression, we are looking to re-amplify many of the voices who shared with us the regression they witnessed in the last couple of years. Continuing the chorus to ensure that our reproductive choice and reproductive justice are necessities for eliminating gender-based violence. Our bodies, our choice is meant to root us in the history of our movement while reclaiming the term from those who seek to deny our rights while asserting their own. We sought to be intentional about how we were advocating, by ensuring that we were not duplicating work but rather acting in alignment with our movement by amplifying the work that has already been done to progress these issues. 

The 16 days began in 1991 to symbolically connect violence against women (VAW) to human rights through their international days on the calendar. In the last three decades, we have seen the 16 days be a catalyst for raising awareness about systemic violence that is rooted in patriarchy, misogyny and sexism. Groups, like the IIWR-MB, have worked with the 16 Days to highlight the synergies of liberation, anti-oppression, and equity that responds to ongoing awareness of the need for inclusivity and empowerment in our movements. Finally, the 16 days allows us to connect with community members worldwide seeking to advance and broaden an understanding of women’s rights, trans and gender-diverse rights and gender-based violence and the action required to end it. 

We speak every year about the importance of amplifying work to end gender-based violence every day of the past 16 Days. That we need to move from 16 to 365. Throughout this campaign, we will be sharing and promoting the organizations that are doing this work 365.  Folks like Action Canada for Sexual and Health Rights, who strive for a world in which all people have full control over, are able to decide freely upon, and all matters related to their sexuality, reproduction, and gender, including their reproductive and sexual health. Action Canada works to advance and uphold reproductive and sexual rights and health, in Canada and globally and do so through campaigns like their Abortion rights are human rights campaign that we will be promoting every day of the 16 Days. 

After what has been an exhausting couple of years to protect and advance gender equity and justice, we hope that these 16 Days will remind you of the folks in our communities who show up every day and, no matter how devastating the news, continue to work to make the dream of a violence-free world possible. The lighting of the Winnipeg sign and the Esplanade Riel on the 25th and December 10th are symbols of solidarity with those who work to bring attention to these issues every day of the year and work to implement change and solutions all the while. We invite you to join us as we “Orange the World” by wearing a ribbon or an orange piece of clothing, lighting up your home, workplace or social media orange, and taking part by supporting those working every day to end gender-based violence.

Follow along on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and check out our events calendar to support the work of other organizations. 

Micaela stand against a grey brick wall smiling with their eyes to the right of the camera and a hand pushing back their hair.

Micaela Crighton is an intersectional feminist and community organizer in progress. They are the co-chair of the Advocacy Committee of IIWR-MB and one of the leads on the Bringing a GBA+ to Manitoba project. Outside of IIWR-MB they are a co-founder of the Canadian Coalition for Youth, Peace and Security and a member of גֶּשֶׁר , Bridge , جِسْر. She finds joy in being in, on or around water.

Fions stands against a grey stucco wall with her arms crossed and laughing. She has shoulder length brown hair and a navy blue blazer on.

Fiona Vowell is a feminist and ally continually working to grow and learn. She is an interim co-chair of the Advocacy Committee of IIWR-MB. Outside of IIWR-MB she is a co-founder of the Canadian Coalition for Youth, Peace and Security. She enjoys spending time outside and with friends in her free time.