The most shocking realisation about #MeToo is that it has always been there. But the question we need to ask ourselves is how is it that we never talked about it before? How could the majority of the world ignore violence against women for such a long time even though it is so present in our daily lives? How long would we have continued speaking about “incidents” instead of calling it out for what it actually is: a violation of human rights. It’s simply dreadful. You realise that we all have been tricked. For too long catcalling, physical and verbal abuse as well as misogyny have been normalised.
We need to recognise that our system is broken. A simple update won’t be enough. It needs a reboot. Violence against women is structurally enshrined in our society. It impacts all aspects of a young woman’s life; our health, safety, but it also affects society as a whole. No matter if we talk about Hollywood, an intimate relationship or civil society - including youth organisations - violence against women doesn’t know any barriers. It is everywhere. Statistics by UN Women show how deeply rooted the problem is: one in three women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence. That data is not new but #MeToo created a momentum where the world came to realise that we cannot continue as we did before. Stories came in numbers too big to be silenced.
But listening alone won’t be enough. #MeToo needs to remain a movement. It demands actions. A reboot of today’s society is long overdue. It will require hard and difficult work; resources, time and a space which empowers young women and their allies to continue speaking out. And it must take place online and offline. Persistence and determination are key. We need to stand united to combat structural sexism. This will not be an easy task as it requires a redistribution of power. Simply scratching the surface will take us nowhere.
One step is to ensure a strong legal framework. Not all countries in Europe have implemented one already. 19 of the 54 members of the Council of Europe still haven’t ratified the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention. In countries where the Istanbul Convention is already in place, existing measures have to be strengthened. Police need to be trained, teachers must be aware and reporting must be facilitated. The cooperation between authorities, courts and protection centres needs to be deepened. Youth organisations need to be involved as partners. To provide safe spaces for young women cannot be only a task of women’s organisations alone but requires efforts from society as a whole.
A reboot must mean that our hardware is checked too. It’s a reminder that we as youth organisations need to look at our own structures and ask ourselves: are we doing enough to provide a safe space for young women within our own organisations? Do we create an environment where young women can address issues they are concerned of? And do we follow up on this in our internal structures as well as externally? Youth organisations have identified different ways to stand up against violence against young women. Some have established women’s committees to create a safe space within an organisation to discuss what measures need to be taken, others provide trainings to prevent and to raise awareness while again others have a strong code of conduct which clearly states that harassment, physical and verbal violence have no place in the organisation.
As a young generation we are ready to speak up and to make a difference. We refuse to accept that a lifetime living under the threat of violence could ever be normal, for us or for generations to come.
#MeToo has always been there. But here’s the thing: without strong, holistic action from all sides it is not going to end. It’s not a question of if we need to reboot of our society, it is a question of when.
About Carina Autengruber, Vice-President of the European Youth Forum
Carina Autengruber has been active in the Austrian Nature Youth (ÖNJ) and the catholic parochial youth movement (Jungschar) since she was 10 years old. On her first international exchange back in 2008 with the Service Civil International (SCI) she discovered her passion for international youth work and European affairs. Since then Carina participated in numerous exchange programmes and has lived in Luxembourg, Portugal, South Africa, Belgium and Germany. From 2014 to 2016 she was the European Youth Delegate of the Austrian National Youth Council (ÖJV).
Carina is currently doing her Master degrees in political science, development studies and gender studies at the University of Vienna. Furthermore, Carina works for a consultancy, where she is responsible for data management.
Besides that, Carina is a passionate feminist and is active in various women's rights initiatives.