There is so much in this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence theme that resonates for us in Canada today.
A new national conversation on violence against women has been launched by Ghomeshi-gate. Whether or not it will be translated into concrete change remains to be seen, but at least issues are being raised. People – women and men – have spoken out on the prevalence of sexual harassment on Parliament Hill and the implications for women’s participation in national politics.
Public opinion bubbles with outrage over lack of action on violence against indigenous women.
At the same time, the Government of Canada is at war and has launched airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Once again we are challenged to ask how military action contributes to peace. Although the horrors of the ISIL movement, including violence against women and girls, are well documented, many questions can and should be raised regarding how bombing and airstrikes will bring about a resolution to the complex situation.
Our government engages in bellicose rhetoric on the conflict in Ukraine. Yet it is not clear that Canada is doing anything in that country in the spirit of Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Where is the support to Ukrainian women to help them participate in peacebuilding and help resolve this crisis?
In the midst of all these developments, the call for a discussion on women’s rights — both domestically and in Canada’s foreign policy – couldn’t be more timely. A coalition of over 100 organizations has called for a leaders’ debate on women’s rights issues as part of the next federal election campaign. The campaign is called Up for Debate. These issues deserve a higher profile as we choose our national leaders and as politicians tell us how they would govern.
During the 16 Days of Activism Campaign, there is certainly much to talk about. And there is even more to act on.
Beth Woroniuk is a member of the WPSN-C Steering Committee. You can follow her on Twitter at @bethottawa.