It Happens Here: 16 Days of Activism

Have you heard of 16 Days of Activism? It’s a campaign fighting gender-based violence, founded by the first Women's Global Leadership Institute in 1991. Now, the UN General Secretary’s UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign is leading the way with this year’s event, ‘Orange the World: End Violence Against Women and Girls’. The theme this year is education, something of the utmost importance in our university setting. That’s why It Happens Here Durham is launching their own campaign in the university to support it.

It Happens Here Durham was initiated over two years ago by Betty Smildzina and Fiona Smailes, two Durham University students, as a sister campaign to the Oxford It Happens Here. Since then, it has lobbied the university to change its sexual violence policy and support system, run awareness and fundraising campaigns, and led successful consent workshops in colleges. This year, it is fighting for a more transparent and student-supported policy, mandatory training for staff, and better signposting for sexual violence resources. Run by students, for students, and made up of survivors and those who have worked with them, It Happens Here Durham provides a growing platform for students to voice their opinions and concerns about the way sexual violence is dealt with here in Durham.

They’ve got a lot planned for 16 Days of Activism. Following the lecture by Annie E. Clark and Andrea L. Pino, founders of EROC (End Rape on Campus), on Wednesday, It Happens Here will be publishing a review of the event along with an interview with the speakers. After the success of their earlier workshops, the group will be collaborating on a consent workshop with Durham University Feminist Society on December 1. They are also promoting an event hosted by CRIVA (Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse) on December 7 at St Hild & St Bede with US-based activist and educator Tony Porter. Additionally, they aim to publish a survivor testimony and an interview with Nicole Westmarland, co-director of CRIVA, on their website.

In the wider community, organisations have been ‘oranging’ the world for the past week leading up to the official beginning of the campaign yesterday. World monuments have been lit up in orange, including Niagara Falls and the UNESCO site Petra. Communities have been encouraged to colour their neighbourhoods orange in any way they can with the hashtag #orangeurhood. People are being encouraged to engage with their government, to question the current policies and attitudes around education and gender violence, and to make changes to their own behaviour, however small. It Happens Here Durham is only one piece of a worldwide movement against gender violence, but using the knowledge and tools from their own campaigns, they are joining the fight against gender-based violence not just for these sixteen days, but for the entire year.