One in three women and girls experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime and in majority of countries, less than 40% of women and just 1% of adolescent girls who experience violence seek help of any sort.

Thirty years ago, the UN started a campaign called 16 Days of Activism against sexual and gender-based violence. From November 25 (International Day Against Violence Against Women) to December 10 (International Human Rights Day), the Evangelical Lyceum in Bratislava shared information and wore stickers/buttons/black clothing to mark the days and raise awareness.

Our team of student planners had some wonderful ideas, including starting an Instagram account (@young_activists_16, if you want to follow them) and putting up a board on which those who had experienced sexual and/or gender-based violence could anonymously place a sticker or a post-it sharing their stories. It was moving – and heartbreaking – to see several dozen stickers in a high school with just over 400 students, especially knowing that about a quarter of the school was not even present in the building due to covid exposure.

On December 2, almost the entire school wore black for “Thursdays in Black,” a visible way to show hope for a world without rape and violence. We even tried to include those participating in distance learning and took a Zoom photo together of another 30 or so students later in the day.

Finally, the Bratislava International Church set a chair with a jacket, scarf, and shoes in the center of the worship space on the fourth Sunday of advent, often called Mary’s Sunday, to highlight that those suffering from abuse may be missing from public life or suffering invisibly. The nearby Slovak church did the same.

While I continue to believe that teaching English is important, it is projects like these and seeing a community strengthened that remind me of the importance of being visible and walking in accompaniment with our partners, of being a role model and advocating for the marginalized.

It is my privilege to be in Central Europe as a missionary. Thank you for helping make that possible.

If you would like to follow along with our ministry more often, we’re posting twice a week as ELCA Central Europe Teachers Program on Facebook ( and Instagram ( To apply to our program, please contact me ( or apply here:
To donate money to the CET program, please designate “Sveholm” when you give to the church.
In addition, prayers that we can continue to make a difference through CET are always appreciated.

Blessings to you in the new year!

Naomi Sveholm on behalf of Central Europe Teachers