My experience in the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

“Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free from fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world.” — UN Secretary-General António Guterres


On November 25th I was part of the march “Non una di meno” [Not one (woman) less] regarding the end of violence against women. When I checked the event online, I felt a little bit frustrated, because there were only about 1000 people confirmed, a number that for the Italian capital city is worrisome when it comes to such an important subject. A friend and I decided to go and see what would happen.

On the metro I noticed that there were many people wearing pink bandanas and scarves, so I asked a girl near me if she was going to the event and she told me that she and her boyfriend came all the way from Bologna to attend the march. It’s an international protest – she said – it’s happening all over the world today. My worries went away, now I knew we wouldn’t be so few.


Leaving Termini station and heading to Piazza della Repubblica
[Photo by the author]

When we arrived at Termini, Rome’s central station, I could see people all around with pink bandanas and wearing pink scarves, flags and coats, as well as the “Non una di meno” pin. About 5 thousand people joined. In the beginning, the protest leader, member of a collective, made a speech regarding the intention of the march and why it was important. The organizers were standing on top of a truck leading the march through Roman avenues. As I looked around I realized that many of the protesters were wearing the green bandana of the pro-abortion Argentinian protest, referring to the “Mothers of Plaza de Mayo”, who wore bandanas in their heads and eventually became a symbol of protests in Latin America. I felt at home.


Drummer wearing the Argentinian pro-abortion bandanas
[Photo by the author]

The protest started near Piazza della Repubblica, passed by the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and ended at Piazza San Giovanni. Many feminist collectives were a part of it. There were marching bands making sure everything could be heard from far away, some of the drummers were wearing bandanas of the Argentinian protest as well.


Truck that lead the march
[Photo by the author]

One of the things that shocked me the most (even though it shouldn’t have) was the number of old women present, carrying flags and placards, screaming and singing, walking under the rain until the end. I had never seen that before during protests, only young people. I spoke to one of them and she told me there are subjects that are more important than age and physical condition, they need to be protested until a consensus is reached.


[Photo by the author]

The protest was part of the “Not one [woman] less” movement, which started as a wave of protest against femicide in Argentina, in 2015. The fight for gender-based violence does not concern only domestic violence, but every type of patriarchal and sexist oppression of females. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women issued by the UN General Assembly in 1993, defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

We feel it every day and anywhere: in the bus, at university, in a bar or while holding hands of the person we love. Gender based violence is not only the direct violence as in an aggression or sexual assault, but it can be catcalling as well, and the simple fear of wearing a certain piece of clothing that could attract unwanted looks.

The UN General Assembly declared the 25th of November the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, stating:

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.

In general terms, it manifests itself in physical, sexual and psychological forms, encompassing:

  • intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide);
  • sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber- harassment);
  • human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation);
  • female genital mutilation; and
  • child marriage.

Coming from South America to Europe I expected to find a safer environment, where people would respect each other and I would feel safer, but in reality, concerning this kind of oppression, we cannot feel safe anywhere. Living in Rome is overall a great experience, but being the capital of a European country it is expected to have a deeper sensation of protection.

Being a woman born in Brazil, I was taught to never walk on the streets alone at night and always be looking around because anything could happen. When I was coming to Italy, my grandmother reminded me to always be careful, as I would be alone. She told me to never walk on the streets at night, to avoid going out alone and to never walk in empty, abandoned places. I knew what she was worried about, but my thoughts were actually convincing me that after all, Rome is an European capital, it could not be as violent as Brazil. Indeed, it isn’t violent, but that doesn’t mean we do not feel the small aggressions daily: the unwanted stares and catcalling, when it doesn’t get worse…

According to the Italian National Statistics Institute, in 2014, 31,5% of women between 16-70 years old have been victims of sexual and physical violence in Italy, being 652.000 victims of rape and 746.000 of rape attempt. Even though the Italian legislation enforces our rights, a cultural change would be necessary in order to end the harassments felt daily by women. Starting by teaching boys the importance of consent and respect, especially when they get rejected.

Still, 5 thousand people were not enough for an international protest at the Italian capital, but I am sure we were heard. The remaining question is, did they listen?


Other photos of the protest:





UN’s End Violence Against Women Website:

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