Violence against women is an issue that affects everyone. From Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, the Women’s Resource Centre at the University of Calgary is holding 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, a campaign to raise awareness and educate the campus community on gender violence.
The WRC has over 70 volunteers and offers a space for U of C students to share and work towards gender equality. They hold events and awareness campaigns throughout the year.
Member of the WRC’s events and education team and third-year U of C psychology student Taylor Holland said the 16 Days of Activism campaign is an international effort to raise awareness about violence against women.
“We want to get the word out and educate people on what gender violence is and how people can help,” said Holland. “It is an international campaign and, through the WRC, we bring it to the [U of C].”
The annual event began in 2009. This year’s focus is on violence against aboriginal women. Holland said many aboriginal women go missing or are murdered, a fact that often goes unnoticed.
“It’s often overlooked by the media. It’s pushed aside as if it doesn’t matter and we want to show people that, just because aboriginal people are a minority, their issues should not be ignored,” said Holland.
According to the WRC’s coordinator Nanako Furuyama, gender violence is more complicated than many people assume.
“Unfortunately, gender-based violence is still a large issue, and it affects everybody,” said Furuyama. “Statistics show that regardless of all the services and prevention programs, gender violence is still very prevalent. Violence is still happening in the community, on campus, and we need to raise awareness and work to stop it.”
The events of the 16 Days of Activism include workshops on sexual abuse, portrayals of gender violence in the media, rape awareness and prevention and human rights in general. There will be donation drives, candle making, film viewing and dances. The event will also incorporate a thought of the day to commemorate those affected by gender violence.
Holland said that many students might not be aware of the prevalence of gender violence.
“As a university student and a middle-class student in Calgary, I have grown up not knowing very much about [gender violence]. I have been fortunate enough to not have these issues affect my personal life,” said Holland. “I never knew until this year how serious gender violence is, even in Canada. It happens every day, it happens in families all over and it can happen to anyone.”
Every year, a commemorative event is held by the WRC to honour the 14 women killed at Montreal’s École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989. This was Canada’s worst mass shooting and an extreme act of violence against women. The commemorative event will be held at the Rosza Centre on Dec. 6.
“It is important for people, no matter what their economic class, their gender, their age or ethnicity, to know that this happens,” said Holland.