Rwanda will on Friday join the rest of the world to commemorate 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence (GBV). The campaign happens every year from November 25 as the world observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls until December 10 which marks Human Rights' Day. It is a good opportunity for various individuals and organizations to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. According to the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF), over the past five years, gender-based and domestic violence, in Rwanda, has consistently been on the rise, along with the said victims’ servicing at Isange One Stop Center (IOSC), also showing that both males and females could be violated. Significantly, the fact that people do not report on time and lack knowledge on the proper preservation of GBV evidence hinders their access to justice. Cognizant of GBV as a human rights issue, the Government of Rwanda endorses wide-ranging approaches that focus on appropriate prevention, protection, and response, such as a strong legal and policy framework that have been put in place and tremendous efforts made to ensure victims are provided with required support and appropriate re-integration in their families and communities. Despite all the efforts, GBV is still a threat to human rights and children’s rights, in particular, resulting in death, family dislocation, child defilement and teenage pregnancy. Globally, the theme this year is: “UNiTE! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls”, customized at the national level as “UNITE! Build a Violence-Free Society”. MIGEPROF and stakeholders are set to take the occasion of the 16 days of activism to raise awareness on violence against women and girls and mobilize the general public and the community to understand their contribution in combating GBV, defilement and reduction of teenage pregnancy. “While commemorating the 16 days of activism against GBV, it’s paramount to recognize the power of family members; father, mother and children; working together and invest in constructing a safe and resilience family, free from GBV and mostly by engaging men and boys,” Jeannette Bayisenge, Minister of Gender and Family Promotion said. Jennet Kem, UN Women Country Representative in Rwanda recognises that the scourge of GBV is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls. “It impacts their health, freedom of movement and therefore reduces their ability to study, work and participate fully in public life and socio, political and economic affairs. It also limits their access to essential services and their enjoyment of cultural and recreational opportunities,” she said. Kem also noted that global emergencies, crises and conflict have further intensified violence against women and girls and exacerbated the drivers and risk factors. “Climate change is aggravating all types of violence against women and girls. Moreover, the rapidly expanding new information technologies and digitalized platforms are increasing online violence against women and girls,” she said. “In this context, ending violence against women might seem unimaginable, but it is not. Ending violence against women and girls can be achieved through partnerships and advocacy coupled with coordinated action/services across different sectors such as justice, health, and education among others. Rwanda’s Isange One Stop Centers are glaring examples of how resources and services conjugate to end violence against women.” Jane Abatoni Gatera, Executive Secretary of ARCT-Ruhuka, a local NGO that, among other activities, works on fighting against GBV said the 16 Days of Activism campaign has always played a role in boosting awareness around violence against women and girls. She noted that it becomes a channel for people to know there is gender-based violence, thus being encouraged to report it. Abatoni also noted that the organisation will also be involved in different activities to raise awareness on the community level, starting in Rulindo District, focusing on the prevention of GBV and encouraging people to fight against it. Shaki Mukiza, Policy and Advocacy Officer at Certa Foundation said the non-governmental organization is also set to participate in this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, noting that the 16 days not only depict courage and resilience but also symbolise reclaiming humanity and seeking justice. She added: “We are indebted to our nation for acknowledging the necessity of raising awareness and combatting the violence against women and girls. This is indeed one among many crucial steps in ensuring we put an end to Gender Based Violence.” On the national level, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence will be launched in Nyamasheke District in Kagano Sector on November 25. Other planned activities include community and media awareness as well as awareness among public servants and in schools. There is also a car free day sports day on December 4, a football match on December 9 at IPRC Kigali and a policy dialogue on December 1 and 2.