White Ribbon Day

That’s today, November 25th, and I know I’ve been over-blogging in the last 24 hours but I couldn’t let this one pass. I think the End Violence Against Women campaign, which today is a part of, needs to be recognised.

You can read about the UK branch of the global EVAW campaign here and follow their blog here. The main function of this coalition of women’s organisations and individuals is lobbying, putting pressure on our national government to act on their duties to eliminate violence against women. There is a Northern Ireland EVAW lobby which seems to be made up of professional women’s sector women using their roles to bring the mandate of mainstreaming policy on violence against women right to the door of Stormont. This piece of work has been the most significant by the group so far:

Making the Grade? (2007)

The document is described as “An independent analysis of Northern Ireland Government initiatives on violence against women.” In line with a similar study in England and Wales, the paper outlines the scored given to all of our government departments based on their responses to a questionnaire probing their department’s action on violence against women in line with the UK’s duties under the Beijing Convention. Across all Stormont departments the overall score was a dismal 1 out of 10 so lots to be done there. It also draws attention to the shortcomings of current NI policy and strategy on these issues and the distorted lens which does not match up with the approach of the United Nations.

The current approach to violence against women in Northern Ireland

Legal and policy developments have focused largely on domestic violence. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) oversees the implementation of Tackling Violence At Home, thecurrent strategy for addressing domestic violence. It has also consulted on a strategy to tackle sexual violence, Hidden Crimes, Secret Pain, and established sub-groups which are currently working on action plans in respect of it.

However, these strategies fail to make the connection between violence against women and women’s inequality. The United Nations defines violence against women as a form of discrimination. Any analysis of VAW must be informed by an understanding of the power and privilege held by men over women; and that the vast majority of gender-based violence sustained by women is committed by men, especially men that they know. Given these facts, it is impossible to address violence against women effectively within a gender-neutral framework.”

White Ribbon Day is an international awareness raising day, a chance to reflect on what all of us are doing to address violence against women in our own lives and communities. It actually marks the beginning of 16 days of action, ending on International Human Rights Day on December 10th. All over the world women’s groups are engaging in vigils, petitioning, protest and informing. It makes me wonder what we could be doing here.

Given our goverment’s poor track record in understanding, nevermind tackling the issue of violence against women, there must be more we can all do to push this further up the priority lists of those representatives looking for our votes. First thing I’m going to do tomorrow is go to The Spinning Wheel and get my hands on some white ribbon. Then I’m going to fold it over, pin it to my jacket and hope that someone asks me what it’s for. I’m also going to commit to reading about this issue from as many sources as I can get my hands on. From facts and figures to heart-breaking testimony, becoming informed is in itself an expression of activism. I’ll tweet something everyday until the 16 days are up. And, most importantly, I’ll contact some people I know whose names are on the EVAW Northern Ireland group and I’ll start finding out how a wider campaign group of people writing and demanding and holding MLAs to account might be able to help their work.

Anyone else got additional ideas? Any Women’s Aid Staff know of opportunities for activism over these next couple of weeks?

Here’s some reading to get us all started:

Endorsement from Ban-ki Moon and some shocking global stats.

A history of the 16 days of Action.

Today saw the launch of a new strategy by the British govt.

White House press statement from VP Biden. Chances of us ever having something like this?

The White Ribbon Campaign, run by men to encourage men to commit to having no part in violence against women

More frightening revelations about discrimination faced by women who report rape.

Important insight into how our legacy of violence in NI has impacted on sexual violence from Rape Crisis Belfast.

And if you’re tired of reading, listen to the debate in today’s Women’s Hour on Radio 4.

As I finish this post I just heard this on Channel 4 news: “All children will be taught in school about domestic violence and gender equality.” That’s great to hear. Shame it was followed by an interview with some teenaged boys whose assessment was that women stay with violent men because they have low self esteem and it’s hard to respect women when they run around with “tits hanging out.” Great joined up thinking there then. People, we have work to do.


2 Responses to “White Ribbon Day”

  1. 1 Gail Mclaughlin December 3, 2009 at 1:07 am

    The White Ribbon Campaign and the 16 Days of Action is certainly one of which Women’s Aid has been supporting and lobbying endlessly to bring a long overdue end to the world wide violence perpetrated against women.
    I am very pleased to tell you that I was part of a Women’s Aid group who actually (in the words of the Speaker of the House) made history in Stormont on the 25th November 2009, as MLAs from all political parties for the first time signed in agreement to a particular issue.
    Upon our charter we obtained 100 signatures from MLAs as a personal pledge ‘never to commit, condone or to remain silent about violence against women’. This charter was then hung on display as a permanent fixture in Stormont.
    Our lobbying for the elimination of violence against women remains to be ongoing and will until the day arrives whereby it actually becomes a reality. We have a long way to go, but to obtain this it is necessary that we hold individuals, communities, professionals, orgaisations and government accountable, to change attitudes and to provoke new legislation which will ensure that perpetrators of violence against women endure adequate sanctions as punishment for commiting such a cowardly and dispicable crime.

  2. 2 soisaystoher December 3, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Thanks for this Gail. Please let us know if there are specific areas of policy that could do with a bit of public pressure. There are some excellent letter writers that read this blog and I know we’d all be keen to add our voices to any demands the lobbyists are making of our representatives.

    It’s great to hear they all signed the pledge. Given the amount of backlash I’ve been reading about of late it is quite an achievement to have all our MLAs give their unreserved support.

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