By Sukhvinder Kaur Vinning (Executive Director, WSO)
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. In many parts of the world, it kicks off sixteen days of activism against gender-based violence. The year may be 2012 but this centuries old problem is still a prevalent issue across the world.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "Millions of women and girls around the world are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated or even murdered in what constitutes appalling violations of their human rights. [...] We must fundamentally challenge the culture of discrimination that allows violence to continue.”
Isn’t that the heart of the matter? Challenging “the culture of discrimination” against women and girls. It may sound like a huge task, but the Sikhs' first Guru, Guru Nanak understood the value of challenging the culture of discrimination. He was born into a world that thought of women as inferior. Sadly, in many respects, that world still exists today.
He understood that challenging starts with a thought and boldly wrote about the equality of women in his teachings. This took courage, as he didn’t have an army or a nation behind him. Instead he took a stand, and declared that women are as valuable as men.
But declarations are not enough. He taught that we must put our beliefs into action and inspired many men to support the strong women in their lives. Sikh history contains amazing women who had leadership roles in the Sikh faith and effected change in their communities.
We are still struggling with gender based violence. It’s heartwarming to see how many men today believe this is not just an issue for women. Instead, these men are answering the call.
In Canada, The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women commended members of the Canadian Football League today for their dedication to ending gender based violence. She highlighted 3 projects that many of may not know about.
- The 'Be More Than a Bystander' project brings the B.C. Lions Football Club together with Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (EVA BC), governments and the private sector. The project is focused on educating bystanders, specifically youth, about what they can do to take a stand to prevent and stop violence against women and girls. The project targets both genders, however a particular emphasis is the engagement of men and boys, including football coaches and their teams across British Columbia.
- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers Football Club is also asking citizens to 'Be more than a bystander. Break the silence on violence against women' to address gender-based violence. The team is working with the Manitoba government to help stop violence against women through a public awareness campaign launched on November 5, 2012.
- The Toronto Argonauts Football Club have a youth oriented bullying prevention program for both elementary and secondary school levels. Its 'Huddle Up Bullying Prevention Program' works with the support of corporate and community partners to inspire and empower boys and girls to take action towards bullying prevention in their schools. This program includes a component that focuses on bullying related issues specific to girls and young women.
(Source: Status of Women Canada)
In India, men have answered the call with the Bell Bajao! Campaign. Launched in 2008 by Breakthrough, the campaign calls on men to ring the bell when they become aware of domestic violence. The campaign created ads such as the one below to highlight the power of the individual to make a difference, and called men to action.