In a recent video, the European Parliament Vice President endorsed cities’ pivotal efforts to stop violence against women and issued a plea to join forces.
“Only with a large network of cities like Eurocities working together with us, can we prevent violence at all. Together, we can build the violence-free Europe we all want to live in,” said Evelyn Regner, as she highlighted a variety of local initiatives.
Indeed, local governments across Europe are adopting multiple solutions to tackle gender-based violence, offering a multidisciplinary approach against a complex and deep-seated issue.
Regner made her statement shortly before the launch of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign.
Running from 25 November to 10 December, the annual event put a spotlight on the over 3,000 women who lose their lives every year in gender-based crimes in Europe, laying bare the need to step up efforts, increase funds and strengthen women’s legal protection at EU level.
Across Europe, urban initiatives for the 16 Days of Activism campaign showcase how the variety of local solutions are charting a path towards common goals: step up support for victims while rooting out misogyny and sexual abuse.
In the German city, the fight against gender-based violence wears orange.
Central to Bonn’s “StopSitSpeak“ campaign are 12 new orange benches displaying a carved message against sexual crimes and information on how to receive help. The word “Nein” (No) appears prominently above all others.
The benches are placed in public locations across the city as a symbol of resistance. The project is the brainchild of the local Protestant Church, the municipality, UN Women Germany and civil society organisation Zonta Clubs Bonn.
The orange benches are also the focus of a “StopSitSpeak” campaign video featuring women and men.
Meanwhile, the message “Stop violence against women,” along with a hand pushing away perpetrators, is displayed on social media, on banners across the city, on electric screens in metro stations and on flags raised in front of district town halls and town squares.
The city’s Equal Opportunities Office launched “My name is not a doll,” a multimedia campaign against sexism and catcalling, a form of sexual harassment experienced by a majority of women around the world.
The initiative centres around a video depicting a scene of catcalling, which includes shouting, whistling and making loud suggestive remarks against someone in public.
Created in tandem with the Dortmund University of Applied Sciences, “My name is not a doll” aims to empower women and raise awareness about sexist behaviours’ adverse effects on people’s wellbeing and sense of safety.
The campaign’s video is being screened in local movie theatres and shared on social media. The initiative also features posters in public areas and on-screen information in subway stations.
The Scottish city has adopted a multifaceted approach based on three main tools: a domestic abuse strategy, a dedicated project, and awareness-raising actions.
Earlier this year, the municipality launched its first Domestic Abuse Strategy 2023 – 2028, in cooperation with the national police, third sector partners and experts from the world of academia.
With the scheme, Glasgow aims to ensure that people affected by domestic abuse receive the best possible care, and that social services are adapted to people’s needs.
A short video showcases the experiences of survivors and perpetrators alike.
Domestic abuse is the single biggest cause of homelessness for women and children in the city. Stories of women fleeing their home after experiencing violence are all too common in the Glasgow area.
The Making A House A Home project supports survivors, providing them with vouchers to help establish and furnish a new home away from violence.
Meanwhile a powerful film featuring testimonies from survivors exposes cracks in the legal system.
The short is informed by a Glasgow Caledonian University study showing how the Scottish justice system failed abuse victims who reported their case to the authorities.
In the video, more than 130 women speak of their frustration at the lack of communication from the police and courts, lengthy case delays, and perpetrators breaching bail conditions.
The film, create’zd by an award-winning production company co-op, concludes: “The system allowed the abuse to continue and, sometimes, the system added to it.”
‘Don’t ignore what may appear to be a problematic situation. You can turn someone’s world around’, is the message from the Brussels-Capital Region.
The awareness-raising effort focusses on sexual harassment and violence in public spaces at night, as portrayed in a powerful campaign video.
The city’s action stems from local surveys pointing to alarming rates of sexual harassment.
A poll conducted on a sample of 426 women, for example, showed that more than half of them experience at least one form of violence from their partner during their lifetime.
The multimedia campaign’s centrepiece is the social media hashtag #Jointhefam, where “fam” stands for family. As the accompanying slogan says: “In front of aggressors, we’re all brothers and sisters.”
Since 2021, the city has implemented a strategy to increase security and reduce partner violence, in cooperation with the local police and correctional services.
The method focusses on deterrence: abuse victims who report their partners are given additional support, which increases with the severity of the crimes committed.
The campaign spotlights three main messages: ‘society does not tolerate violence’. ‘Future acts of violence will have legal consequences’. ‘We offer help to those who want to change their life situation.’
The scheme additionally relies on a response chain in which different authorities harness existing legislation and tools to prevent perpetrators from committing new gender crimes in the future.
For the past decade, Mannheim has been implementing different schemes to support women and girls and chart a future without sexual violence.
The German city’s plan is based on a multidisciplinary approach tackling several aspects of violence against women.
The strategy extends to the fight against forced marriage and early marriage, in cooperation with the relevant authorities and specialist advice centres. It also aims to end human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced prostitution.
In the Italian city, tackling gender-based violence is part of a larger strategy to address growing inequalities, which have become more pressing as a consequence of the Covid-19 crisis.
The protection of people against sexual harassment is one of the goals of the city’s 2021-2026 gender-equality plan, which includes the fight against unpaid work and discrimination.
“I hope that this plan can help ensure that the bodies of women, girls, migrants, and LGBTQIA+ people can be subjects of power and no longer objects of power,” writes Matteo Lepore, the Mayor of Bologna in the strategy’s document.
Among the over 40 initiatives in Genoa, one stands out as an original take on gender-based violence: a show dedicated to Italian singer Mia Martini, whose songs describe women’s pain, fragility and strength against male dominance.
Written in the 1980s, Martini’s songs are a cry for women’s rights and equality. The words still echo to this day.
The “Like a flower: stories, songs, videos about Mia Martini” music and theatre performance was created by author Davide Giandrini. It was staged on 25 November; the event was free of charge.
The show’s title is inspired by the lyrics of Martini’s iconic song “Donna” (Woman): “Woman like a flower bouquet, when you’re alone, they will go on to kill you. Woman, what will happen when you won’t come back home?”
This article belongs to a series showcasing urban actions against gender-violence. If you would like to know more about this subject and Eurocities’ work, you can click on the links below: