DAY SIXTEEN: Bringing 16 Days Blogathon 2021 to a Close

It’s December 10, Human Rights Day, and we’ve reached the end of #16DaysBlogathon for the global #16DaysofActivism against Gender-based Violence for another year.

The 16 Days Blogathon Team

It’s December 10 – Human Rights Day – and the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence comes to an end for another year. So, too, does our 2021 Blogathon. Over the last 16 days we have posted daily to raise awareness of gender-based violence as our way of supporting the global campaign.

This year, the theme has been Histories, Legacies, Myths and Memories.

We have explored the powerful undercurrents that connect past and present, highlighting the historical and longitudinal dimensions that have shaped narratives, experiences and activisms addressing gender-based violence today.

Through our remarkable contributors, we have surfaced the voices and perspectives of victims, survivors and activists from the recent past to antiquity, and across multiple geographies, and traced the legacies reverberating through the decades and centuries.

Over the last 16 Days we have travelled from Australia to India, Scotland to the Caribbean, and Mexico to England.

Through personal testimony, memoir, reportage, formal archive, immersive field experience and oral history as well as through literature and traditional music and storytelling we have reflected upon the lessons to be learned from the past.

Ultimately a focus on histories, legacies, myths and memories provides us with an important tool. It helps us to identify what is distinct and different about the moment and location we inhabit and what we share in common across time and space. In moving forward in the struggle to expose and address gender-based violence we argue that these histories are a rich resource to inspire and motivate today’s feminist practices and pedagogies.

The 16 Days Blogathon is a collaborative project co-hosted by genderED at University of Edinburgh, the Gendered Violence Research Network at the University of New South Wales, and the Centre for Publishing at Dr B R Ambedkar University Delhi.

The blog posts in a nutshell

Every #16DaysBlogathon is summarised below.

Content note: posts inevitably address distressing experiences and issues around sexual and gender-based violence. We hope they also provoke, energise, create solidarity, and sometimes uplift

Day One

Scottish folk tradition of ballads about violence against women

By Karine Polwart, songwriter and musician

Award-winning folk singer, songwriter and storyteller, Karine Polwart, reflects on a Scottish folk tradition of ballads about violence against women. She argues such archives and catalogues require critical intervention so that we can navigate and cherish traditional sources with a contemporary understanding of gender-based violence.

Day Two

Where it all began

By Anne Summers, Australian author and feminist

Almost 50 years on, Anne Summers writes about the opening of Elsie Women’s Refuge in 1974. This blog highlights the importance of the brave and selfless refuge workers who have devoted their lives to helping other women try and leave violence behind.


Day Three

Voices of Resistance: Women’s Folksongs and Response to Domestic Violence

By Garima Singh, Assistant Professor at the Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies

Garima Singh engages with the everyday resistance posed by women’s folk songs to the dominant social structure and their response to domestic violence in their own melody. She highlights that women have been conscious of their everyday struggle and, individually and in solidarity, pose a potent threat to the dominant.

Can victim-survivors of violent crimes find justice through true crime podcasts?

By Lili Pâquet, Lecturer in Writing at the University of New England, Australia

Lili Pâquet discusses her research which aims to discover if true crime podcasts can offer informal justice to victim-survivors who feel dissatisfied with the formal police and court systems of Australia. She uses the examples of Trace and The Teacher’s Pet which discovered new witnesses in unsolved murder cases and led to arrests and coronial inquests.


Day Four

Invisible Impact: Gender-based Violence and the Sikh Women’s Alliance 20 years on

By Balvinder Kaur Saund, Chair of the Sikh Women’s Alliance

This blog features a conversation with Balvinder Kaur Saund who has been at the frontline of activism within the UK’s Sikh community for over two decades. The London-based Sikh Women’s Alliance is an organisation which galvanizes women to tackle the deep-rooted attitudes and structures that fuel gender-based violence and constrain communities from tackling it.

Bringing back hope

By Maha Krayem Abdo (OAM), CEO of Muslim Women Australia

Maha Krayem Abdo writes about the history of Muslim Women Australia, who have led the way in centering the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse and faith-based communities. She highlights the healing and therapeutic nature of utilising faith as a tool for empowerment, with a client-centred focus to maintain a client’s dignity at every stage of support.

Day Five

Confronting Gender-based violence in Ancient Rome: The Sexual Violation of Pubescent Boys

By Ulrike Roth, Ancient Historian at the University of Edinburgh

In this post, Ulrike Roth explores evidence from the ancient Roman world to raise questions about our preparedness to confront the issue of sexual violence against children, then and now. She discusses how acknowledging the ambiguities in the ancient evidence, and listening more carefully to the signs of abuse in it, helps to ingrain in our mindsets the kind of sensitivised attitude that is so essential in identifying and combating sexual violence today.

Day Six

At the centre and yet forgotten: Violence against women in Oral Narratives

By Tanuja Kothiyal, Professor of History in the School of Liberal Studies, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University Delhi

Tanuja Kothial discusses the portrayal of marginalised women and gendered violence in oral narratives and Hindu epic literature. While these narratives provide voice to marginal communities and groups, even within these traditions women’s locations remain marginal and mostly within respect to male figures.

I Sing of Arms and the Woman: Gendered Violence in Modern Mythic Reinterpretations

By Hazel Atkinson, history graduate and writer

In this blog, writer Hazel Atkinson explores ‘feminist’ reinterpretations and reclaiming of myths which historically have perpetuated violence against women. She asks the important question: Does repeatedly depicting the violence women face, even with the best of intentions, challenge or contribute to it?

Day Seven

When Bessie Guthrie met the Women’s Liberation Movement

By Catherine Dwyer, writer and director

Catherine Dwyer, writer and director of the film Brazen Hussies, reflects on the Women’s Liberation Movement and the work of Bessie Guthrie – a feminist and campaigner for child welfare reforms. Through her collaboration with the Women’s Liberation movement, she attracted media attention resulting in an exposé on the abuse of girls in state care and the barbaric act of forced virginity testing.

Systemic Stereotypes: Violence against Bonda tribal women

By Nancy Yadav, PhD candidate in Gender Studies at the School of Human Studies at Dr B R Ambedkar University Delhi

Nancy Yadav writes about stereotypes embedded in myth and colonial history that oppress the Bonda tribal women in India. While the recorded history of the Bonda community intersects with gender-based violence, Bonda women continue to bring rays of hope, interrogating negative stereotypes that they are born in to and repositioning their identity.

Day Eight

Death in Geraldton: how Joyce Clarke became another Indigenous statistic

By Hannah McGlade, Noongar woman, Senior Indigenous Research Fellow at Curtin University and an Advisor to the Noongar Council for Family Safety and Wellbeing

In this blog, Hannah McGlade highlights how Aboriginal women have consistently voiced concern about state indifference and violence that contributes directly and indirectly to the violence that is blighting the lives of too many women and children. A standalone National Action Plan and recognition of the fundamental right of self-determination is needed to combat the systemic and structural discrimination that contributes to violence against Aboriginal women. 

Day Nine

Statues and status: Mexican women change the face of history to combat gender-based violence today

By Sarah Easy, human rights lawyer and research assistant for the Australian Human Rights Institute

Sarah Easy discusses the anti-gender based violence movement in Mexico and the practice of dismantling public monuments or ‘statue toppling’. She considers whether the dismantling of the old and rebuilding of new public monuments is merely symbolic, or whether it can engender genuine cultural change.

Myth and reality of gender-based violence in India’s partition and thereafter

By Rachna Mera, Assistant Professor in the Urban Studies Program (SGA), Dr. B. R Ambedkar University Delhi

Rachna Mehra traces the legacies of Partition-era gender-based violence and abductions on community relations and consensual inter-faith marriages in contemporary India. She argues that whether it was 1947 or it is 2021, the honour of the Hindu family, community and nation is inextricably linked with a woman’s body.

Day Ten

Storytelling for Social Justice: The Story of Antigua and the Masked Serial Rapist

By Janeille Zorina Matthews, multi-disciplinary criminal justice scholar, The University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus, Barbados

Janeille Matthews offers a critical perspective into the story of the ‘masked serial rapist’ in Antigua and how it frames gender-based violence. She argues that Antiguans need to hear a different story about crime and sexual violence, one that includes a historical understanding of the intra-racial sexual violence that existed during slavery and its post-emancipation aftermath and is grounded in 50 years of police data.

Gender-based violence in the archives: Curating the past without perpetuating harm

By Kristy M Stewart, New College Collections Curator and School of Scottish Studies Archivist, Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh

This blog considers the role of the archivist and the problems of taking a neutral voice in curation when many stories are underpinned by gendered violence and silencing women’s voices. Kristy Stewart argues that the re-telling of such stories should give women and girls a voice that their history should have had all along.

Day Eleven

No it wasn’t different back then #1 – Researching rape in 20th century US

By Mara Keire, Senior Research Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford

Mara Keire discusses her research on rape in the 20th century and how the rhetoric of ‘it was different back then’ enables the justification of men’s sexually predatory behaviour. She argues that studying the history of sexual violence serves to obliterate the idea that rapists are solitary ‘bad apples’. Instead, researchers can uncover the networks of complicity that reinforce male power.

No it wasn’t different back then #2 -Tracing Rape Myths in Medieval Court Records

By Mara Schmueckle

Building upon the previous blog, Mara Schmueckle discusses the medieval Scottish notarial record on Janet Lausoun, who was abducted and forced into marriage. The story highlights the burden placed on women where their credibility is measured against expectations of the behaviour of “real victims.”

Day Twelve

A ‘National Disgrace?’: Notes from a history of domestic violence in Australia

By Ann Curthoys, Department of History at the University of Sydney, Catherine Kevin, College of Humanities, Arts and Social sciences at Flinders University and Zora Simic, Historian and Gender Studies scholar, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture at the University of New South Wales

In this blog, the contributors discuss their research which aims to capture the first national history of domestic violence against women in Australia. In doing so, they are working to understand the significant changes over time in public discourse, legal frameworks and activism to combat domestic violence, and to understand how and why domestic violence has wreaked such enormous damage on women, children and society as whole from the 19th century to present.

‘It Takes a Global Village to End Gendered Violence’: Looking back at the ‘International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Women’s Citizenship’

By Charlotte James Robinson, doctoral researcher at the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Gender History

Charlotte James Robinson reflects on the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Women’s Citizenship, held in November 1996. The conference was considered a remarkable culmination of two decades of feminist activism against gender-based violence. She discusses the success of the conference in including the voices of all women working on gender-based violence.

Day Thirteen

Opening the Pandora’s Box: Dilemmas in a Course on Family Engagement

By Monimalika Day, Associate Professor at the School of Education Studies, Dr B R Ambedkar University Delhi and Deputy Director, Centre for Publishing

Monimalika Day discusses how education students grapple with stories, memories and narratives of gender-based violence. A range of experiences are shared, with variations in the degree of violence, the relationship with the perpetrator, the nature of oppression, the site of the violence, each a powerful testimony of dehumanization. However, this approach often challenges the instructor to move beyond the well-defined space of a syllabus and explore uncharted waters.

Teaching sexual and gender-based violence: learning environments and pedagogic dilemmas

Tereza Valny, Teaching Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, Department of History   

In this blog, Tereza Valny discusses the challenges of teaching about historical case studies of sexual violence and how this may impact students and create feelings of anxiety, tension and distress. She asks the important question: what can we do as instructors to face these inevitable dilemmas that arise from teaching material which has the potential to traumatise and re-traumatise?

Day Fourteen

In search for a better tomorrow: Re-imagining home

By Anubha Sinha, Alumni Dr B R Ambedkar University Delhi and Consultant at PRADAN

Anubha Sinha reflects on the immersive action research she conducted in Dokal in the state of Chhattisgarh, India, where she formed a collective of forty women who had experienced domestic violence. The blog highlights how these strong women are taking small steps every day to survive and bring attention to the injustice of gender-based violence. 

Duties of care: navigating and narrating traumatic histories

By Claire E. Aubin, PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity, and Emily Rose Hay, PhD scholar situated between the School of History, Classics and Archaeology and the School of Law at the University of Edinburgh

Co-convenors of the Emotionally Demanding Histories Group Claire E. Aubin and Emily Rose Hay discuss how researching sensitive topics, such as gender-based violence, can present ethical and methodological dilemmas and impact the person’s emotional health. They consider how we can engage with traumatic histories in a way that does not cause further harm to researchers, but which does justice to the stories we are telling.

Day Fifteen

Social Action in the 80s – has anything changed?

By Jan Breckenridge, Professor and Head of School of Social Sciences and Co-Convenor of the Gendered Violence Research Network, UNSW Sydney and Mailin Suchting, Manager of the Gendered Violence Research Network, UNSW Sydney

This blog highlights that social action in the 1970s and 1980s meant that it was no longer possible to ignore domestic violence, rape and the sexual assault of children. The results of this work were tangible with a proliferation of women’s health and sexual assault services, survivor groups and government policy development. There is no doubt that these changes established child and adult sexual assault as a serious and prevalent issue. But is our world a safer place?

Does she have a voice? Do we hear her? The silencing of Indigenous women and girls experiences of violence: does it ever change?

By Kyllie Cripps, Scientia Fellow and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law and Justice and Co-Convenor of the Gendered Violence Research Network at UNSW, Sydney

It is widely understood that gender-based violence disproportionately impacts Indigenous populations compared to other population groups. And yet, why are their lives not honoured or mourned or valued in the same way? Kyllie Cripps discusses the silencing of Indigenous women and girls’ experiences of violence and how Indigenous women continue to speak up and speak back to the narratives constructed about their victimhood.

Day Sixteen

Freedom from endless violence, freedom from helpless silence – Songs against gender based violence in India

By Sumangala Damodaran, Professor of Economics, Development Studies and Popular Music Studies at Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University Delhi

Sumangala Damodaran discusses how songs about gender-based violence have been a significant element of wider struggles in India. They have been written spontaneously as part of various campaigns and social and political events that brought issues to the fore, including before the mass mobilisation of the women’s movement in the 1970s. Songs depicting the lives of women, and particularly focusing on the violence that is inflicted, have had to edge their way into larger repertoires around class, caste, racial and ethnic discrimination.

The 2021 curators:

University of Edinburgh:  Prof. Fiona Mackay (Director) and Aerin Lai (PhD web and editorial assistant) for genderED; Dr. Zubin Mistry (Lead), Prof. Louise Jackson, Prof, Diana Paton, and Dr Hatice Yildiz, for the Histories of Gender and Sexualities Research Group

Dr B R Ambedkar University Delhi: Prof. Rukmini Sen (Director, Centre for Publishing), Dr Rachna Mehra (School of Global Affairs)

University of New South Wales:  Prof. Jan Breckenridge (Co-convenor), Mailin Suchting (Manager), and Georgia Lyons (Research Assistant), Gendered Violence Research Network

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