Sixteen days against gender-based violence

From Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, Wilfrid Laurier University will practice the Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.  

The Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an internationally practiced campaign aimed to raise awareness around and prevent gender-based violence. The movement began in 1991. 

“Sixteen days of activism is a worldwide campaign because gender-based violence is a worldwide problem,”  Dayna MacDonald, Sexual Violence Prevention Specialist in the Office of Human Rights and Conflict Management, said.  

According to the United Nations, “… gender-based violence refers to harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. It is rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms.” 

Gender-based violence can affect all people, however, some groups are more at risk. With women, non-binary, transgender and Two-Spirit individuals being disproportionately impacted.  

The Canadian Women’s Foundation found that 64 per cent of all people in Canada know a woman who has experienced sexual, emotional or physical abuse.  

“We [Canadian’s]  exist in a space that has a lot of access to education and incorporating sixteen days of activism into that education is really important,” said MacDonald.  

Knowledge and prevention strategies surrounding gender-based violence are vital for university campuses.  

“On a university campus specifically, sexual and gender-based violence happen quite widely,” MacDonald added. “It’s our responsibility, in this educational environment, to let folks know that these things are real, these things happen …”. 

This year, Laurier is participating in the full sixteen days of the campaign.  

Sometimes when we only have one day … everything can wisp by really quickly, sixteen days might be better for letting [gender-based activism] shape our lives,” Lorraine Vander Hoef, contract faculty in Women and Gender Studies, said.  

Events planned throughout the sixteen days will take place on both the Waterloo and Brantford campuses.  

The first days of the campaign saw online webinars and live lectures for students on topics ranging from healing to self-care for survivors. 

Dec. 6 marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. The day commemorates the Montreal Massacre, where fourteen women were murdered at École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989.  

“[The Montreal Massacre] really highlighted how femicide and misogyny were still present. Since then, femicide has not stopped … I think that it’s important to remember those fourteen women’s lives that were lost while simultaneously calling attention to the fact that there is still such a long way to go,” MacDonald added.  

On National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women, the Gendered and Sexual Violence Prevention and Support team will take over Laurier’s Instagram, @wilfridlaurieruni, to discuss support and activism.  

“Remembering all of those people and everyone who has died at the hand of femicide and empowering people to recognize and move forward and mobilize around that is what I think should be the spirit of National Day of Remembrance …” said MacDonald.  

To close the Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a drop-in care space for survivors and supporters will take place on both campuses – Dec. 8 for Branford and Dec. 9 for Waterloo.  

MacDonald touched on the event, “[It is] for survivors to come to a space and make a self-care kit and hang with us for a bit … treat themselves to some good and valuable personal care time …”.  

More awareness surrounding gender-based violence is seen compared to previous years.  

“We talk about it [gender-based violence] more and I think we talk about it more with diverse groups,” Vander Hoef said. 

“As I have worked in my position at Laurier, I have noticed that with every incoming group of first-years, they have a little bit more knowledge,” MacDonald said. 

However, there is room for improvement to the campaign at Laurier. Something I would love to see is more men and masculine folks being involved in the cause,” MacDonald added, “I think something that we’re lacking in the conversation is people who have more power speaking up …” 

More information on the Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence at Laurier can be found on the university’s website.  

“Survivors who are needing support, we are here for you … you can find us by reaching out to our email, svinfo@wlu.ca ,” said MacDonald. 

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