Every year, a group of Yukon women’s organizations and community partners sit down to scheme up a “new angle” on the prevention of violence against women in order to draw attention to this critical issue for the annual 12 Days to End Violence Against Women campaign from Nov. 25 to Dec. 6 in the Yukon.
As we put our minds to the task of organizing this year’s campaign, we made direct requests to some key organizations in Whitehorse, including Yukon College, Yukonstruct, Splintered Craft, and the Yukon Network of Older Adults.
The response was phenomenal. With no hesitation, these organizations jumped on board, planned their own events, and helped us frame the conversation about what violence against women in Yukon looks like. Consequently, the theme we chose for this year’s campaign is “the community coming together to end violence against women.” We are all the friend, family member, or colleague of a victim or an abuser, so we must all take action. A beautiful concept, right?
But we must be cautious.
Although there is no question that gender-based violence is worthy of – no, requires – a community response, we need to clarify what we mean when we use these words.
“Calling on the community” has been criticized as an excuse for us to offload our individual responsibility to others. It is not an excuse to put down our signs, silence our voices, or cease our front-line efforts to support women. We cannot be lulled into complacency by thinking that because ending gender-based violence is the community’s responsibility, someone else is handling it.
Community is merely a group of individuals. It means that each of us must do something, according to our ability, to shift the culture that still allows gender-based violence to happen every day.
Think about what community means to you.
When I think about my community, I think about my friends, my colleagues, and the people I interact with every day in Whitehorse.
I know that I can be a part of change in each of these communities. Some will be easier than others. My community in the women’s movement might be open to hearing about new ways of approaching an issue, or perhaps how to use more inclusive language. In my social community, I might be able to start a discussion about the political inaction on an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
But as we call on each community to take action, we also need to be careful. We need to be aware of power dynamics in our communities and the privilege some communities carry with them. For example, by fostering the development of White Ribbon Yukon and encouraging men to be involved in the fight to end gender-based violence, our message was suddenly able to travel to places it had never been. Men have the privilege of not being statistically as likely to face outright (or subtle) acts of gender-based violence on a daily basis, and as a result, are less likely to feel personally impacted by the quest to end this injustice. Is it easier for this community to take action?
No one wants gender-based violence to continue. Now is the time to be more inclusive, creative, and strategic about how we do it.
Engage your communities, but start with yourself.
Program coordinator Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre