These 16 Champions are Working to End Gender-Based Violence

Everywhere I travel, I hear from survivors and advocates about the epidemic of gender-based violence. I also meet the amazing people who are working to prevent and respond to this kind of violence.

As the 16 Days of Activism of gender-based violence come to a close, I want to shine a spotlight on some of stories of men and women who are standing up to gender-based violence around the world.

1. Caring for Survivors in Iraq


Behar Ali (pictured) and Jela Kayany work to change cultural attitudes about gender-based violence and improve the care provided to survivors—particularly the many women and girls violated by ISIL who are trying to rebuild their lives.

In March, they organized a conference focusing on what Iraq will need when it’s time to rebuild – and how women and girls need to be included.

2. Teaching Men in Malawi

Marcel Chisi serves as the National Chairperson for Men for Gender Equality Now (MGEN) in Malawi. In a male-dominated society with severe gender inequality issues, Marcel understands the critical role men must play in ending the unacceptable norms of gender-based violence in Malawi. 

He travels across the country to engage Malawian men, young and old, in ground-breaking activities like a ‘husband’s school,’ where men are taught how to become responsible fathers and how they can take care of a family. 

His organization also works to address the role of men in HIV prevention, raising children, and women's reproductive rights. MGEN counts over 50,000 members in Malawi.

3. Using Art to Inspire Young People in Serbia


Vojislav Arsic is a theater director and the leader of Center E8, an organization working with young people in Serbia and the Balkans. 

Center E8 has launched a special project to empower and inspire young women and men to promote gender equality and prevent violence.

"I think that great social changes can start from the theater," says Vojislav. "Artists have a responsibility to promote a vision of a better world that we want to have, through theater and through their work."

4. Bringing Together Survivors and Perpetrators in South Africa

Naynda Khanyile has trained social workers and military personnel about gender-based violence and HIV prevention. Today he is the Executive Director of YZEKONA, an organization in South Africa. YZEKONA recognizes that men and boys can help solve many of the social problems they face, from HIV and poverty to gender-based violence and substance abuse. 

Naynda's organization brings together men and boys who are survivors and perpetrators of gender-based violence. In these spaces, they’re able to talk openly about masculinity, health, violence, and gender. 

5. Supporting Women’s Organizations in Indonesia

Sunoko witnessed domestic violence at home as a child. When he went to college, he started to work on domestic violence and other challenges facing Indonesian women, especially those in rural areas. 

Today Sunoko helps women’s groups manage their resources and influence local policies. He also uses the power of the pen to highlight injustices faced by women.

6. Working with Police in Greece

When Nikos Karagiannidis retired from his job as a police officer, he didn’t stop working. Instead, he became a full-time champion working to end gender-based violence in Greece.

Today Nikos teaches women self-defense and helps survivors of domestic violence work with police. He continues to work with police to make sure domestic violence cases are pursued properly, and he speaks to the public about police protocol in these kinds of cases. And Nikos works with high school students on how to deal with violence from a partner.

7. Stopping FGM/C in Senegal


When she was a young girl, the rapper and musician Sister Fa underwent female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in her home country of Senegal. Today she uses her music to spark a larger dialogue about the practice in places where it is still taboo to talk about it.

Her hometown has been one of many in Senegal to abandon the practice of FGM/C. And Sister Fa herself will ensure the tradition of FGM/C ends with her: Her daughter will never undergo the practice.

8. Supporting Survivors with Disabilities in Ethiopia

Michael Gedlu works for the Good Samaritan Association, an Ethiopian organization focused on the unique needs of women survivors of human trafficking. The women who Michael helps have been subject to outrageous gender-based violence and are extraordinarily traumatized. They may be non-verbal or have so much memory loss that some don’t remember their own names.

But through the support of the rehabilitation center where Michael works, these women are able to recover in a safe place, where they can get the services they need, and work towards reclaiming their lives and reunifying with their families.

9. Offering Shelter to Survivors in Moldova


Fifteen years ago, several large shelters for survivors of domestic violence closed in Moldova. There just wasn’t enough funding. Around the same time, an obstetrician from northern Moldova named Dr. Simion Sirbu started providing more and more medical assistance to survivors of domestic violence.

Dr. Sirbu decided he wanted to offer more than just medical help to survivors. So he established a shelter for survivors and their children.

In the 10 years since it opened its doors, the shelter has helped more than 5,000 women and children, providing shelter, food, psychological, and legal counseling.

10. Convening Leaders in Papua New Guinea

Nearly two-thirds of women in Papua New Guinea face gender-based violence, a pandemic that holds back not only women and girls but also the entire country. That’s why Embassy Port Moresby has made gender-based violence a top priority, making the most of very limited resources and inspiring others to pick up the torch.  
Every year the Embassy brings together leaders in government, civil society, the donor community, and the private sector at the PNG Women’s Forum. The Forum, which will be coming up on its third year this March, is the first event of its kind to convene such a broad range of leaders to address issues like gender-based violence and women’s economic empowerment in Papua New Guinea.

11. Leading Action in India

This is Greg Pardo. A Mexican-American and a first generation college graduate, Greg is a driving force behind the U.S. Consulate General Kolkata's renewed attention to gender-based violence, which has included panels, film screenings, and policy discussions.

“In our efforts, the role of men is very important. We are part of the problem because we define this as just a “woman’s issue.” says Greg. “This is an issue that affects all. That is why I encourage men to see how they might be contributing to the problem, but also how they can become a part of the solution.”

12. Fighting Stereotypes in Tanzania

Clotilda Kokupima is an 80-year-old advocate working in Tanzania to empower older people.

As a retired teacher, she educates communities about stereotypes that have led to widespread violence against older women accused of witchcraft.

13. Working with Offenders in Brazil

Sergio Barbosa works with men who have histories of violence against women in Brazil. He leads a class for offenders, offering them a chance to reflect and learn about gender-based violence as part of their sentencing.

One man who came to Sergio’s class was convicted of domestic violence and ordered to stay away from his wife. One day, he came into the class and laid a revolver on the table. He admitted he had intended to kill his ex-wife—but being in the group changed his mind.

Sergio says cases like this show the importance of doing educational work, and how it can restore the dignity of human life, even for those who take away the dignity of others.

14. Inspiring Alliances in Pakistan

In 2014, Qamar Naseem brought together hundreds of men to talk about how violence against women affected their homes and communities in Pakistan. The project was so successful that it turned into a community alliance against gender-based violence—the first of its kind in Pakistan. Today, men and women activists, journalists, labor unions, student federations, lawyers and others are part of the alliance.

“MEN UNiTE is an alliance for women to feel hopeful about men in Pakistan,” Qamar has said. “It’s a movement of men standing with women in the struggle to end violence and abuse, and will help ensure women, transgender persons and children can live in a world where they are all safe and free.”

15. Advocating for Survivors in Bolivia

Earlier this year, the State Department honored Rosa Julieta Montano Salvatierra, an amazing woman working to end gender-based violence in Bolivia.

Rosa has provided legal assistance to women in cases of rape, sexual assault, and domestic abuse. Her organization has provided services to more than 30,000 women and influenced nearly every piece of legislation that advanced women’s rights over the past 30 years.

About the author: Catherine Russell serves as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State.

For More Information:

A young female community health volunteer poses for a photo in Binauna village, in Nepalís Banke District [USAID Photo]
December 11, 2015


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