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How did White Ribbon Day begin?


On 25 November, people around the world commemorate White Ribbon Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

According to Amnesty International UK, approximately a third of women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their partner, while only 24 per cent of domestic violence cases are reported, Women’s Aid states.

Violence against girls and women continues to be a pressing issue that needs to be addressed on a global scale, a fact that is highlighted on White Ribbon Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Here is everything you need to know about the observances:

How did White Ribbon Day begin?

The White Ribbon Campaign is a global movement of boys and men to end violence against girls and women.

The movement was formed in Ontario, Canada in 1991 following the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre, in which a man killed 14 women at an engineering school.

Boys and men who participate in the White Ribbon Campaign, which is active in more than 60 countries across the globe, are encouraged to wear white ribbons to show their support.

White Ribbon Day coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November.

What is the history of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women?

Around two decades ago, the United Nations (UN) officially recognised 25 November as the day on which to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

However, the history of the observance can be traced back almost 40 years prior.

On 25 November 1960, three of the four Mirabal sisters, political activists from the Dominican Republic who opposed the regime of dictator Rafael Trujillo, were assassinated.

The sisters who died were Patria, Minerva and María Teresa, while their fourth sister Dedé lived until 1 February 2014.

In 1981, women’s rights activists marked the anniversary of their deaths on 25 November as a day on which to raise awareness of gender-based violence.

Twelve years later, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which recognises “the urgent need for the universal application to women of the rights and principles with regard to equality, security, liberty, integrity and dignity of all human beings”.

The declaration stated that the UN is “concerned that violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace”, stating that “violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women”.

On 7 February 2000, the General Assembly officially designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, encouraging organisations across the globe to “raise public awareness of the issues every year on that date”.

What is this year’s theme?

This year’s theme is “Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!”, placing focus on women who have faced violence during the pandemic, recent humanitarian crises, conflicts and climate disasters.

A new report from UN Women, based on data from 13 countries since the pandemic, shows that 2 in 3 women reported that they or a woman they know experienced some form of violence and are more likely to face food insecurity.

The UN is encouraging people to express their support for the international commemoration by using the colour orange on social media, in addition to the hashtags #OrangeTheWorld and #GenerationEquality.

You can contact the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline by calling 0808 2000 247.

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