International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – Stark Reminder of Numerous Injustices Against Women
“But, you are an Oxford graduate!” I heard my voice rise to an almost yelling level, as I tried in vain to get my friend, Dariya (name changed) to get out of an abusive marriage after having said a million different things already. He was hitting her almost daily, badly injuring her.
“What difference does it make, when you have nowhere to go?” She hung up on me in tears. And, I was left staring at the phone, not knowing how to help her from thousands of miles away. She eventually left him, thankfully, but not before suffering considerable physical and emotional abuse quietly for years.
Dariya isn’t alone in this ugly reality faced by thousands of women around the world - daily. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women observed on November 25 is a stark reminder of just that.
Women's rights activists have been observing November 25 as a day against gender-based violence since 1981. The United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women in 1993 leading the path towards eradicating violence against women and girls worldwide. However, it wasn’t until 2000 that November 25 was set as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and “in doing so, inviting governments, international organizations as well as NGOs to join together and organize activities designed to raise public awareness of the issue every year on that date.”
Locally, Waypoints women’s shelter has opted to recognize Alberta’s Family Violence Prevention Month (November 1-30). The group is hosting a number of activities (see graphic) and running social media campaigns throughout the month on their Facebook page: Waypointswb.
Michele Taylor, who has been the Waypoints Executive Director for nine years now, notes, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is important globally as it happens in “all nations, to all races, cultures and socio-economic groups.”
“It is one of the major sources of multi-generational mental health as well as physical health issues worldwide. During the COVID-19 pandemic, family violence has become a ‘pandemic within a pandemic.’ COVID has increased social isolation, fear of women’s shelter environments due to the virus, and increased difficulty reaching out for help, due to some abusers working from home. Additionally, the stress and hardship caused by the pandemic is causing a surge in new family violence, and where it already existed, intensifying family violence. Calling on governments world-wide to further fund innovation in prevention efforts is going to be key to eliminating violence against women,” continues Taylor.
Highlighting Waypoints programs, Taylor shared the group owns and operates two 24-7, 365 days a year crisis lines:
-Family Violence Crisis Line: 1-780-743-1190
-Sexual Trauma Support Line: 1-780-791-6708
Unity House is their 45-bed Emergency Women’s Shelter. It has been open throughout the pandemic without any COVID outbreaks to date. Second Stage is a 14-unit facility, which offers transitional housing for up to two years for women, with or without children escaping family violence. In addition, an affordable housing building with 64-units called the Compass is also operated by the association.
“There is also a Sexual Assault Healing Centre, Child and Youth Advocacy Centre, called the Care Centre for Children and Youth. We also have the Outreach Landing for counselling services in addition to family violence outreach. Lastly, there is the Opportunities for Change Centre for court mandated attendance in our psycho-educational program for those taking responsibility for family violence in their homes.”
If you know someone who is experiencing abuse or violence, know #WhereToTurn by reaching out to the Waypoints 24/7 Family Violence Crisis Line at 780-743-1190. If you or anyone you know is experiencing family violence, there is help available. The crisis line is confidential, please reach out if you have any questions, or would like to access their services. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.
Because, if not now, then when? If not you, then who?
National Fast Facts on Violence Against Women:
- Women and girls are overwhelmingly represented in the rates of family violence homicides across Canada. “In 2020 alone, 160 females were violently killed in Canada,” according to a report published by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (CFOJA).
- On average, that's one woman or girl killed every 2.5 days. About once a week, a woman is killed by her male partner in Canada.
- That's an increase during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to 2019 when 146 women and girls were killed, the 88-page report named Call It Femicide shows. But in 2018 there were 164 instances of femicide. The CFOJA said in 90 per cent of the 128 cases where an accused perpetrator was identified, the accused was male.
- According to the CFOJA, “Femicide is generally defined as the killing of one or more females, primarily by males, because they are female. It represents the extreme end of violence and discrimination against women and girls. Intimate femicide also referred to as intimate partner femicide, captures the killing of women by current or former partners.
- “Various other forms of oppression such as racism and poverty increase women’s marginalization by society and, in turn, their vulnerability to femicide in various contexts. Women’s experiences of oppression and inequality as well as attitudes, beliefs and stereotypes about violence against women and girls perpetuate and maintain practices that are harmful to women and girls. By confronting stereotypes and biases about violence against women and girls, including femicide, we need to work to empower girls and young women and promote all women’s equality overall.”