Reykjavik Dialogue: Renewing Activism to End Violence Against Women

After more than 25 years, Reykjavik Dialogue is bringing back a meeting to discuss violence against women. We spoke to one of the organisers to understand its importance.

Even though this year’s International Women’s Day has passed, the efforts for gender equality should be part of our everyday lives.  

To support this, in this piece, Youth Time speaks to Reykjavik Dialogue, a space for activist representatives that fight violence against women and/or provide services for victim-survivors and some individuals with experience of frontline work.

Reykjavik Dialogue, aims to find common ground and ways of working together across borders and communities, to strategise and shape activism against gender-based violence over the next five years.

Let’s look at the first global meet on violence against women (VAW), and ways it will further women’s rights.


Celebrating the Gains, Remembering the Struggle

At the beginning of the interview, Purna Sen, Activist, Academic and Reykjavik Dialogue Organising Group Member says that the year leading up to International Women’s Day 2021 has been unlike any most of us have known. 

“The nature of change brought by COVID-19 has not been even–some have had to carry on travelling to and being in their workplaces, others have been able to switch to working from home, domestic workers have had to be locked in with their employers, and domestic violence has been on the radar in ways it has not before.”

Adding that too many of us have known significant loss and sacrifice.

“In this time issues of gender inequality and especially of violence against women have been forced – primarily by women’s activism – onto the public policy agenda, building on decades of determined work.

“This year, the persistence of VAW, its evolving presence (in online spaces, for example) has met with enraged and organised intolerance, rightful impatience with continued failure to listen to women and to hold perpetrators to account.”

Looking back at International Women’s Day history, she recalls it symbolises the women organising to better their lives and the world in which they live.

“While we celebrate our gains, we remember the struggle is ongoing, and that organised women lead us on our way.” 


Reconvening after 25 Years

The Reykjavik Dialogue and Conference: Renewing Activism To End Violence Against Women, which will be hosted on August 16th-18th, will mark the first global conference led by international activists and survivors of gender-based violence since the Brighton Conference in 1996.

Although there have been many other events organised and led by VAW activists, their extent was never global.

Sen adds: “It involves activists and survivors in many events but this one puts them centre stage and able to shape the conversations more centrally than other events. 

“We have not had a VAW focused global meet since 1996 in Brighton: we need to reconvene.”

Please click here to hear Sen’s message on the importance of this conference.

Reykjavik Dialogue_2.jpg
Organiser: Purna Sen

Since the Reykjavik Dialogue provides a space for activist representatives to draw up a shared agenda for action and planning the next five years of activism, Sen reveals how this is going so far, and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected this cause.

“2021 is a year when there are several international conventions on gender equality and the Reykjavik Dialogue is proudly a survivor- and activist- led event among these.”

In her experience so far, the Dialogue has excited interest among people in different parts of the world, especially those who have felt that while crucial, official/policy/government work may have diverged from what their activist and experience based visions were and how they have evolved. 


Building a World Without Gender-based Violence

She further comments on the work that women have done internationally to end such violence.

Sen is invested in ensuring that this work, these agitations, brings change and contributes to building a world without gender-based violence. 

“This means doing everything possible to support, learn, advocate and make governments do right by the women and girls that they serve. That means holding abusers to account, but it also means investing in prevention–ensuring the violence does not happen.” she goes on.

“Many campaigns all over the world have done many things–from banging pots and pans outside the homes of abusers, to challenging the normalisation of men having sexual access–for money or not–to the bodies of women and girls, to what was arguably the first global movement against sexual abuse #MeToo.”

“Women and girls have shown the way.”


Importance and Empowerment

Sen believes young women are especially important to this work and their voices, hopes and ambitions should be integral to shaping the work they all do over the next five years. 

“Young women especially have been on the frontlines of agitation against violence–in #MeToo, about sexual abuse on campuses and in schools–they rightly want a different world!”

She hopes young women will do two things:

  • make sure their work is seen and recognised by sharing it to the ‘honouring activism’ part of the website,
  • register to be part of the conversation. 

On a conclusion, she recalls that not everyone will be in Reykjavik in person but it is important those young activists are among them.

“Young women from the global south, young women with disabilities, young indigenous women–all young women have an investment in a different world!”

Many people will take part in it. You can join too and spread the word to others in your networks!   

Click here to learn more about the conference and here to register.  

On International Women’s Day, Youth Time focused on how the current pandemic is impacting gender equality.

International Women’s Day: COVID-19 Exacerbates Gender Discrimination

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