How will you mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence?

The 16 Days Campaign begins on November 25th each year.  Founded in 1991, the Campaign has enjoyed the support of more than 5,000 organizations in 187 countries.  Stretching from International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25th, the 16 Days Campaign runs until December 10th – Human Rights Day.

Regrettably, gender-based violence still plagues the planet.  The World Health Organization estimates that one in three women globally will be beaten, raped or otherwise abused in her lifetime.  In most cases, the abuser is a member of her own family.

During the past year, we’ve witnessed gender-based violence targeted against women in the streets, at home, at school and at work.  The global theme of this year’s campaign, “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World” focuses on the issue of militarism – the culture of weapons and control that perpetuates patriarchal models of domination and the social acceptance of violence.

We don’t have to look far from our own borders to see the impact of militarism on the world’s vulnerable.  The 16 Days Campaign encourages us to also apply the theme to our own neighbourhoods and it’s important to remember that gun violence continues to impact Canadians and women in particular.

It’s remarkable to note that at a time when other countries are introducing stronger gun control laws, Canada is actually moving backwards.  Just last month, the Harper government tabled Bill C-24 that will make it easier to own a gun.

We know that gun violence has a devastating impact on Canadian women.  Consider these facts from the Canadian Women’s Foundation:

  • On average, every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. 
  • Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
  • 67% of all Canadians say they personally know at least one woman who has been sexually or physically assaulted.
  • Each year, over 40,000 arrests result from domestic violence—that’s about 12% of all violent crime in Canada.  Since only 22% of all incidents are reported to the police, the real number is much higher.

We know gun control works to improve these alarming statistics.  Since stricter controls on rifles and shotguns were introduced in 1991, spousal homicides with these “long guns” have decreased by 69%.  Japan serves as an impressive example to the world.  With some of the strictest gun ownership laws, this nation also has one of the lowest rates of firearm-related homicide.

While the impact and prevalence of gender-based violence can seem overwhelming, here are 11 actions you can take during the 16 Days Campaign that can make a positive difference:

  1. Join Wrapped in Courage.  Wear a purple scarf on the weekend of November 29th and 30th to demonstrate your awareness of gender-based violence and your determination to help eliminate it.
  2. Learn the warning signs of abuse.
  3. Start a conversation on gender-based abuse with family, friends and neighbours to challenge stigma and encourage dialogue.
  4. Support organizations in your community, like women’s shelters, with your time, money or other donations.
  5. Learn the practical and concrete steps to take if you’re concerned that someone you know is being abused.
  6. If you do know someone who may be in an abusive relationship, act on what you’ve learned from NFF to begin to support them.
  7. If someone you care about is behaving abusively, you might be the best person to start the conversation about getting help.
  8. Safety planning is a goal.  Lean more about best practices from NFF.           
  9. Write and call your local MP, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Safety and other elected representatives and tell them to do everything they can to stop the weakening of gun control in Canada.  Find contact and other helpful information here.
  10. Remember the power of your vote and help make the elimination of gender-based violence a defining issue in the federal election in 2015 by raising it with candidates.
  11. Celebrate successes.  Draw inspiration and hope from the courage and determination of people like Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, Emma Watson and other less famous activists and brave individuals who denounce, defy and survive abuse.