Empowering Youth to End Gender-Based Violence: Serbia Launches "16 Days of Activism" Campaign

The main focus on the role of youth as drivers of change in combating Gender-Based Violence.

November 27, 2023
UN Women

Belgrade, 24 November 2023 - The beggining of the global campaign "16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence" was marked by the event "Imagine Life Without Violence," organised by the United Nations in Serbia.  

The focus of this year's campaign is youth as drivers of change and their activism and role in creating a society with zero tolerance for violence against women and girls. 

“Violence against women and girls is a pervasive issue affecting communities globally, and Serbia is no exception. The 'Voices of Youth' research sheds light on the fact that young people in Serbia are increasingly aware of gender-based violence and its normalisation in media and society. As we launch the 16 days campaign, it is vital to emphasise the role of young people as initiators of change in building a society with zero tolerance for violence against women and girls," says Francoise Jacob, the UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia. 

Francoise Jacob, the UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia

UN Women

At the event, the results of "The Voices of Youth" research on the opinions of youth about gender equality and social cohesion were presented. This research has been conducted as a part of the regional project "Youth for Inclusion, Equality and Trust", with more than 1200 youth participants from the region. The results for Serbia showcase that young people are aware of the problem of gender-based violence and that they find it problematic that violence against women and girls is normalised in both the media and society. 

"When we envision a world without violence, we begin to build a path to creating that world. At the EU level, we are committed to invest, prevent, protect and not remain a silent observer. Therefore, the EU Commission acceded to the Istanbul Convention in October this year, and in 2022 we adopted a proposal for a directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence. We remain devoted to this goal within the EU but also with our partners in accession countries, as Serbia is", says Emanuele Giaufret, H.E. EU Ambassador to Serbia.

Emanuele Giaufret, H.E. EU Ambassador to Serbia

UN Women

Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Tourism and Youth of Serbia, Ivana Antonijevic, stated that the Ministry recognises gender-based violence as an important issue among youth and supports the development of services that contribute to the mental health of youth and their safety, both physical and psychological. A special focus is given to the support of programmes aimed at preventing gender-based, sexual, partner, and peer violence, as well as digital violence and the promotion of healthy and safe behaviour and gender equality. We are dedicated to hearing the voices of youth and to including them in the development of measures, with their active role in the implementation and creation of measures and activities focused on changing the narratives within communities where youth are at greater risk.

Ivana Antonijevic, Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Tourism and Youth of Serbia

UN Women

The Ambassador of Germany, Anke Konrad, participated in the event, emphasising that "gender-based violence has many forms. From physical violence and verbal attacks to psychological pressure and hate speech campaigns on the internet. Therefore, it is important to sensitise young people about different aspects of gender-based violence and the negative effects that it has for both victims and society."

Minister of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue, Tomislav Žigmanov, highlighted that the Ministry, together with partners, launched the campaign "Stop femicide!" aimed to raise awareness in Serbia about the seriousness of the problem of femicide in our society and to mobilise all public institutions, media, local self-governments, civil society organisations, and other actors in the implementation of the policy of the Government of the Republic of Serbia towards zero tolerance for violence. This campaign is also being implemented in the media and social media, and panels on this topic, aside from Belgrade, are planned in Kragujevac, Novi Sad, Niš, and Novi Pazar.  He added that the main reason for the realisation of this campaign is the fact that 27 women have been killed by men and the need to stop this negative trend, as well as to implement the policy of the Government of the Republic of Serbia that implies zero tolerance for every form of violence in our society.

The central part of the event that took place at the National Library of Serbia was a discussion with representatives of youth organisations and youth activists. During the discussion, the power of media, both traditional and new, was emphasised. Media can deepen gender stereotypes but can also be the drivers of change. When it comes to youth, it is encouraging that there are more young influencers who fight against stereotypes and advocate for a society where violence is not tolerated, both in the real world and online.