Shining a light on gender-based violence in Ankara

Published 20 December 2019 in:

The interactive map. Photo: UN Women.

During the darkest months of the year, the Embassy of Sweden in Ankara, together with the City of Ankara and UN Women, shone a light on the problem of gender-based violence. The ‘Light the Dark’ project was launched within the framework of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign and consisted of three initiatives to make Ankara safer for women.

The first initiative was an art exhibition involving light installations in one of Ankara’s biggest parks, which is not normally illuminated after dark. The purpose of the exhibition was not only to highlight gender-based violence, but also to illuminate the park and thus make it safer for women to be there at night. Ambassador Annika Molin Hellgren, the Mayor of Ankara Mansur Yavas, the District Mayor of Ankara Alper Tasdelen and UN Women’s Country Director Asya Varbanova opened the exhibition before a large audience.

“The statistics are devastating. Globally, four out of ten women have experienced physical or sexual violence. In the EU, it’s one out of three women. This means that almost half of all women in the world have been subjected to physical or sexual violence.”

“These are women we know, who we meet every day. Someone sitting beside you on the bus, your colleague, your sister or mother. Perhaps you are one of these women yourself,” said Annika Molin Hellgren in her opening speech.

One of the light installations.

The second initiative was an interactive map accessed via a website or mobile app that people could use to anonymously mark public places where they have felt unsafe. The map is still online and will be shared with the Turkish authorities to inform various decisions and initiatives focused on the safety of women in public places.

The ‘fireflies’ on the interactive map indicate places that have been marked as unsafe by the general public.

In the third and final initiative, the Embassy invited 250 guests to the residence to celebrate Saint Lucia’s Day, focusing on gender equality issues and human rights. Saint Lucia’s Day is celebrated annually in Sweden and in several other places around the world. Candles are a central part of the celebrations, and are a symbolic as well as an actual light in the darkness.

Saint Lucia celebrations at the residence.

Interest in the project has been large, in both traditional and social media. More than 15 000 ‘fireflies’, which indicate places that have been marked as unsafe by the general public, can now been seen on the interactive map. The Embassy is already planning a follow-up event in 2020.

Annika Molin Hellgren emphasises the extensive consequences of gender-based violence and the importance of political leadership for tackling the problem: “The costs to the individual woman, her children and society at large are unacceptable and require multifaceted measures. We must work for zero tolerance. Political will remains a crucial condition for success.”