By Julieanne Acosta, November 29 2022—
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence (GBV) is an annual international campaign that runs from November 25 to December 10.
The dates were chosen to signify the meaning behind the campaign — to continue the fight to end violence against women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ individuals. Nov. 25 was named the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1999 by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to honour the Mirabal Sisters who were political activists in the Dominican Republic before they were murdered in 1960. Dec. 10 — the date that marks the end of the campaign — is the UN’s declared Human Rights Day.
For Canada, Dec. 6 also marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women to remember the mass shooting that killed 14 women at Polytechnique Montréal.
Although this is a global initiative, Canada’s theme for the 2022 campaign is “It’s Not Just.”
“The theme is a double meaning,” Canada’s government website reads. “It reminds Canadians of the injustice of GBV and brings attention to how society dismisses and minimizes attitudes and behaviours contributing to GBV. […] GBV is not just a private issue, but a systemic cycle that all Canadians have a role in ending.”
In an interview with the Gauntlet, Lana Wells — Brenda Strafford chair in the Prevention of Domestic Violence where she leads a prevention initiative called Shift: The Project to End Domestic Violence — spoke on her own research and looking at root causes of GBV.
“We are trying to shift the discourse to prevention and we want to figure out the root causes of violence and prevent it from happening in the first place,” said Wells. “When you go upstream, you’re looking at and trying to understand systems of oppression, like patriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy and heteronormativity.
“These systems of oppression manifest themselves through multiple systems and behaviours and how we operate,” she continued. “They show up in all our families or communities — all the places where we play, learn and worship in — and all of those environments have a role to play in the prevention of domestic and sexual violence.”
Shift’s goal is to advance effective primary prevention strategies that change practices, policies and legislation. Especially with the changing pace of society, Wells discusses how world events can affect GBV.
“The impact of COVID-19 on various forms of violence, including domestic abuse, violence, sexual violence, family violence and child abuse in intimate partner violence and hate crimes has increased,” said Wells. “We know that natural disasters or epidemics often lead to increased rates of domestic and sexual violence.”
Wells also explored the role that men and boys have in this discourse.
“One of our research areas is around engaging and mobilizing men and boys. They’re a critical group that we’re trying to mobilize to advance and play a significant role in preventing domestic violence and violence within their relationships,” said Wells. “For men, we saw higher rates of suicide and mental health problems due to financial insecurity, social isolation, job loss and substance use. The great thing about what’s positive coming out of the pandemic is we know more men are seeking help than ever before.”
Throughout the 16 days, people are encouraged to share the campaign on social media using #16Days. To learn more about the campaign, visit the Government of Canada’s website.