Excerpt from a talk at TEDxYouth@Colombo 2013 https://sachinip.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/tedxyouthcolombochange-2013-p…

"Few years ago I came across the Take Back the Tech initiative, which calls for people to use ICT in activism to end violence against women. It inspired me to marry new media with a campaign that Sri Lankan women’s organizations have been carrying out since 2005. 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence is an annual global campaign that demands the elimination of all forms of violence against women with over 2,000 organizations participating from over 154 countries.

There had never been an online component to this campaign in Sri Lanka and I conceptualized the Sri Lanka 16 Days Blog. In 2011 and 2012, as part of WMC’s work for the 16 Days campaign, I launched and curated this blog, using social networking and blogging as a platform for raising awareness about gender based violence.

My target audience was young women and young men as statistics show that they are the largest group active in this sphere.

The blog was a trilingual platform on which they could express themselves in any format whether it was blog posts, Facebook updates, tweets, creative writing, art, photography, essays, short films, interviews, cartoons and podcasts. Creation of such a space was a first for women’s organizations in Sri Lanka and I was a mixture of apprehension and excitement as to how it would turn out.

The response was very encouraging.

One of the highlights was a poignant entry by Roel Raymond who decided to speak about her personal encounter with violence for the first time on this platform we provided and in doing so, inspired many others to speak and to take action. For an example, some youth groups such as Beyond Borders and Reach Out were inspired to conduct their own online campaigns.

I’m in complete awe of her for having the courage to speak out. It exceeded the expectations we had for this blog.

Through this exercise I made an attempt to break the silence about gender-based violence, within the inherent limitations of this space. And the interest generated in the online campaign resulted in it being featured in mainstream media, which meant that we took the discourse on gender-based violence further and expanded our audience. This was particularly important because one of the main challenges women’s organizations face in Sri Lanka is the lack of access and exposure in mainstream media.

This campaign helped us recognize certain groups of people. There were people who were keen to express themselves but didn’t have a platform to do so. There were others who spoke up with a little encouragement from us. There were also many who were expressing themselves and breaking the silence on their own platforms but got more exposure by being featured on our blog and then being republished on websites such as Groundviews and also on newspapers.

All these groups used the 16 Days blog as a platform to disrupt the silence on gender based violence, in whatever format they were more comfortable in. For an example, Beyond Borders launched an interesting project; a photo a day about gender-based violence during the 16 days. They found out that there weren’t many images available on gender based violence and they made a compilation of photographs that would be freely available on the Internet for download and use in any campaigns or projects on gender based violence. And to this day, I see those photos appear in articles and I myself use them for some of my work.

The 16 days blog was a small but powerful step in my attempt to make some noise via new media. And it was an emotional experience for me. Something I conceptualized and created had made a tangible impact, no matter how small."

Women and Media Collective