The British Council observed the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence on 25 November 2018, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls, which begins every year on 25 November and ends on 10 December - the day of the International Human Rights Day. This year, the British Council in Bangladesh took part in the campaign as part of its priority work in SDG 05, which is achieving gender equality and women empowerment.
On 29 November, the British Council jointly hosted a workshop with Tarango, a non-government organisation, titled “International Women Rights Defenders Day” as part of 16 Days of Activism at Tarango’s office. One of the core values of Commonwealth Scholarship is to facilitate alumni’s engagement with the community so they can leverage their considerable knowledge and expertise in developing the socio-economic conditions of the country. A small group of Commonwealth alumni conducted various sessions on skills development, harassment against women and girls and discussed the challenges that women have to bear.
The programme began with an art competition with thirty adolescent girls, who drew some excellent sketches under the theme of violence-free family, society and city. Afterwards, Ms Kohinoor Yeasmin, CEO of Tarango and a Commonwealth alumnus commenced the workshop with a note of thanks to the alumni who had volunteered to conduct the sessions. The two Commonwealth alumni, Saudia Anwer from UNDP and Farhana Sharmin from WHO conducted brief sessions with about 130 working mothers and adolescent girls. A brief talk followed the alumni session focusing on “Hear Me Too” where Mr Towhidur Rahman, Head of Higher Education and Regional Manager, South Asia Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP) shared how women harassment is a widespread issue and even working women in high positions have experienced it at some point. The talk was followed by a cultural performance by victims of gender violence, and subsequently, prizes were distributed to the winners of the art competition and the dance performers.
Keeping up with this year’s theme 'Orange the World: #HearMeToo' and contributing to the spirit of activism, the staff of the British Council also took part in the campaign. They anonymously shared their personal experiences and incidents related to any sort of violence including discrimination, humiliation and harassment in their homes or workplace. This was done to raise voices against any kind of gender-based violence and to increase awareness surrounding matters otherwise kept under the wraps of social taboo and embarrassment. Over the duration of the campaign, there were a series of knowledge sharing activities among the office staff on global women’s movements, survivor advocates and women human rights defenders – all under the unifying banner of the colour orange. Not only was there subtle facilitation of the sharing of personal experiences related to abuse or harassment, but there also was a week-long participatory quiz on the detecting gender stereotype thoughts in our society. Furthermore, we organised an internal event on 25 November 2018, which consisted of an open and in-depth discussion among the staff on gender-based violence. The event has given the British Council an opportunity to emphasise on a more empathetic, appreciative, and humble working culture within the organisation and beyond. It was also a reaffirmation of the British Council’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) policies in all areas of its work.
This campaign ended on 10 December 2018, with a motivational video to further encourage the staff to be united in the spirit of #HearMetoo. Afterwards, the office staff came together to take an oath to ensure an enabling working environment in the British Council, with regards to age, class, caste, disability, ethnicity, religion, sexual identity and orientation.