#16Days: Overview and Summary

As this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence comes to an end, we take a look at some of the in-person ways that WPSN-C and its member organizations and other interested parties marked the campaign.

Women in International Security (WIIS) Canada took the lead in organizing Canadian programming around the campaign and began with a campaign launch at Ottawa City Hall that included speakers representing WIIS Canada, Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW), UNHCR Canada, the Ottawa Police Service, and the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC). There were spoken word poetry and musical performances, as well as the launch of the campaign video. Representatives from partner organizations, including WPSN-C, took part in a candlelighting ceremony. Photos and more details of the launch, as well as from the many other events held by WIIS-Canada and partner organizations, are available on the WIIS-Canada website.

From Peace in the World to Peace in the Home

About 40 Winnipegers came out on a cold winter’s night to participate in a special event during the 16 Days Campaign. There were refreshments and a warm sense of support for women’s activism in room 2M70, at the University of Winnipeg on November 26th.  A resources table included the postcard addressed to Canada’s political leaders regarding gun control. A special song, written and performed by Darcia Senft for Peace Days, “One Step Closer”, was particularly appreciated by everyone. The event closed with the song and video UN Women’s “One Woman”.

"Orange" participants on Nov. 26th -  from L to R: Roxana Obasi, Emily Rempel, Mary Scott, Meenu Kapoor, Gertrude Hambira, Marilou McPhedran, Nancy Cosway
“Orange” participants on Nov. 26th – from L to R: Roxana Obasi, Emily Rempel, Mary Scott, Meenu Kapoor, Gertrude Hambira, Marilou McPhedran, Nancy Cosway

In response to the international appeal from UN Women to “Orange Your Neighbourhood” during the 16 Days of Action to Counter Violence Against Women, the sister organizations of the Institute for International Women’s Rights at Global College (directed by Marilou McPhedran) and the community-based Institute for International Women’s Rights – Manitoba (hosted by co-chair Mary Scott) teamed on the evening of Nov. 26th (Day 2 of the 16 Days of Action) for an interactive session on The Compassion Games (presented by Darcia Senft of Winnipeg Peace Days) to explore global to local responses to gender-based violence. Roxana Obasi helped the audience understand the incentives that perpetuate FGM/CÂ  (‘female genital cutting’) in her native Cameroon, Gertrude Hambira demonstrated the costs of being a human rights defender in her native Zimbabwe and Ellen Judd provided contextual analysis situating violence against women and girls in our increasingly militaristic cultures. Following the panel moderated by Marilou McPhedran, Tolu Ilelaboye briefed the audience on the ‘Youth Vital Signs’ report card hosted by the Winnipeg Foundation while Jazmin Papadopoulos and Giselle Roch of Voice of Women-Manitoba described the young women’s peace camp curriculum being translated into French to be used by Girl Ambassadors for Peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – followed by an open discussion among all members of the audience.

The 16th of the 16 Days for Action countering violence against women and girls is on International Human Rights Day – December 10th. For more information on “oranging your neighbourhood” as part of the 16 Days of Action, visit UN Women.

Invisible War film screening and discussion

On November 28th, WPSN-C co-hosted a screening and panel discussion on the documentary, The Invisible War, with the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies.

The Invisible War follows several survivors of rape as they seek healing and justice from the US military.

Opening remarks were made by Colonel (Ret’d) Michel W. Drapeau, a lawyer and professor with thirty-four years of military experience. Col. Drapeau has represented a number of survivors and argued that the Canadian military needs to do more to support them and to bring perpetrators to justice.

Credit: Kristine St Pierre
Credit: Kristine St Pierre

Following the screening, Noémi Mercier, author of a recent exposé on sexual violence within the Canadian military published by L’actualité and Maclean’s magazine, Julie S. Lalonde, founder of Hollaback! Ottawa and bystander intervention project Draw the Line, and moderator Caitlin Maxwell, feminist lawyer and researcher of sexual violence in the Canadian military, reflected on the connections between the issues raised in the film and their work.

Mercier revealed that The Invisible War was the inspiration for her investigation into sexual assault within the Canadian military. She observed that although things have changed since Maclean’s investigated this topic in the 1990s, they have not changed enough, and her recent research indicates continued issues of sexual violence and impunity in Canada’s Armed Forces.

Lalonde made a number of strong and thoughtful points. She argued that we tend to think that there is a hierarchy of sexual violence when in fact we should see it as a continuum. If we as a society tolerate “less bad” sexual violence and allow it to continue unchecked, we create an enabling environment for “more bad” sexual violence. Lalonde also observed that because the topic of sexual assault is taboo, the person who draws attention to the problem is often considered the problem, as many people seek to avoid the issue. Though high profile sexual violence cases and campaigns may help reduce this stigma, they can also spur resistance.

About 50 people attended the event and many participated in a lively Q&A after the panel discussion.

The event was sponsored by MATCH International, with food and drink donations from Starbucks. The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre also provided counselling and crisis support.

(WPSN-C member Canadian Voice of Women for Peace has also raised concerns regarding sexual violence in the Canadian military.  A presentation and fact sheet, originally from the Commission on the Status of Women 57th Annual Conference in 2013 is available.)

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