Next week, YWCAs around the world will be holding activities to mark Week Without Violence, an annual World YWCA campaign that exists to prevent, reduce, and eliminate violence against women and girls in our communities.
This year, YWCA Moncton’s Week Without Violence will include Moncton’s second Take Back the Night (a community march to end sexual violence against women), Power of Being a Girl and Strength in Being a Boy (a day of violence-prevention conferences for middle-school aged youth), and fundraising for programs and services through the sixth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes (the international men’s walk to end gender-based violence).
This year’s Week Without Violence is going to be exceptional because it is approaching the issue of gender-based violence from multiple angles that are all community-focused and strength-based.
These events are all about the transformative potential communities have when they work to address violence against women.
That’s because community members organize them with the belief that the societal norms and attitudes that normalize and promote violence against women can be dismantled and that sexual violence against women can be ended.
While the event is typically fueled by a healthy dose of indignation, it ultimately embodies a transcendent, hopeful spirit and a sense of solidarity amongst participants.
Simply put, we march because we believe our commitment and action on the issue of sexual violence — symbolized by our nighttime march — can and will change the status quo.
The Power of Being a Girl and Strength in Being a Boy conferences not only offer tools to youth so that they may live violence-free lives (and contribute to a violence-free future), but also indicate that the host community believes that gender-based violence is a problem that must be addressed within the school system.
The YWCA offers these conferences to schools that request them and are willing to work with us as partners.
This year we will be at Eleanor W. Graham Middle School working with youth from Elsipogtog First Nation and Rexton communities.
When we deliver these conferences at a school, it means that the greater community is willing to openly discuss and challenge gender-based violence and that they believe in the capacity of their youth to help end violence against women and girls.
The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event puts the spotlight on men’s commitment to ending gender-based violence.
What I love about this event is that it doesn’t ask men to quietly donate to a good cause, but to actively raise awareness (by soliciting support and donations from their friends, coworkers, and families) and to take a very public, highly visible stand on violence against women in our community.
When men participate in Walk a Mile, they are creating a platform for public discussion on the scourge of gender-based violence and insisting that it is an issue that belongs to everyone, not just women.
It’s important that we know the statistics on gender-based violence, that we lobby government for better policies and that we provide services and programs for those who are at-risk of, experiencing, or recovering from violence.
However, so much of the work of ending violence against women involves changing attitudes that minimize, normalize, and enable gender-based violence.
Attitudes aren’t changed by legislation or policy, but by day-to-day interpersonal and community actions that challenge us to do better.
That’s why Week Without Violence 2013 — in Moncton and around the globe — is important.
If you wish to participate in Week Without Violence 2013, please contact YWCA Moncton at 855-4349 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Women, men and children are welcome at both Take Back the Night and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.
To register for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, please visit www.walkamilemoncton.com.
Beth Lyons is the associate director of YWCA Moncton. Her column focuses on equality issues and social justice and appears every other Thursday.