IOM, UNFPA, UNHCR, and SRSP kick off 16 Days of Activism in Peshawar with an inter-agency awareness session and dialogue with students at the City District Women’s Degree College

Students at the District Women’s Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan, performed a short skit prepared for their peers addressing girls' education and gender-based violence. [Maha Akbar/IOM 2023]

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) inaugurated the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) with an inter-agency event at the City District Women’s Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan.

The event was centered around the theme "UNITE! Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls," as part of the 16 Days of Activism, which is an annual global campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day.

This year’s theme for 16 Days of Activism is aligned with the 2024 priority theme of the Commission on the Status of Women, focused on accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.

Approximately 88 young women and girls pursuing their bachelor's degree at City College participated in the event, which underscored the urgent need to eliminate violence against women and girls and advocate for gender equality and women's empowerment among the youth, specifically, university students aged 20 to 30.

Throughout the event, students listened to multiple speakers and peers discussing GBV, its consequences, avenues for seeking support in case of an incident, and their role in addressing and preventing violence against women and girls through daily actions.

Representatives and senior management from IOM, UNFPA, UNHCR, Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CAR) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Health Department, SRSP, and others attended the event.

"It is crucial to ensure that young adolescent girls are aware of their rights, understand what GBV is, and know how to access support—especially while living and studying in a male-dominated society that often condones violence and experiences high levels of victim-blaming," shared Ashereen Jessy Kanesan, GBV Officer at IOM Pakistan during her presentation at the event. She also encouraged students to challenge beliefs surrounding masculinity, reflect on their own ideas about both masculinity and femininity, and comprehend how toxic masculinity contributes to violence against women.

Nabila Sikander, Senior Programme Officer at SRSP, expressed, "We hope our students feel inspired by our event today and carry this message outside and become activists for this sort of work when they go outside." Dr. Irum Qayum from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Health Department, present at the event, shed light on the linkages between girls’ and women’s health and GBV. She urged students to speak up against the cycle of violence, emphasizing "the cycle of violence continues longer if you don’t speak up. I urge you all to speak up whenever possible."

Students from the City District Women’s Degree College presented a short skit to their peers offering nuanced commentary on gender-based violence and the importance of education.

Maria Sehnaz, a second-year BS Psychology student at the college, played the main character in the skit. "We should have more events like this in our college; it was a fantastic learning opportunity for us. We practiced for three weeks for this skit, and we are all so passionate. I deeply connected with the character I played, and when she was granted permission to receive education, it felt like a personal victory."

The event concluded with the distribution of 100 dignity kits to each participating student, containing menstrual pads, bath soap, a flashlight, a bucket, amongst other essential items. These items aim to assist them during menstruation, ensuring that they have access to items that are hygienic and safe so that they don’t have to use substitute material that can cause infections and other diseases.

The kits provide some level of comfort during their menstruation ensuring well-being and dignity of young women and girls.


For further information, please contact Maha Akbar,, +92 30 51117348