News

The 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence takes place Nov. 23 to Dec. 10

By Greg Colgan, Sentinel-Review

Volunteers prepare grab bags for high school students to inform them about healthy relationships as part of the Zonta Club of Woodstock's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. The campaign began Nov. 23 and continues until Dec. 10.

Volunteers prepare grab bags for high school students to inform them about healthy relationships as part of the Zonta Club of Woodstock's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. The campaign began Nov. 23 and continues until Dec. 10.

The goal is to put an end to violence against women and girls.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is hoping to raise awareness, get people involved and inform the community between Nov. 23 and Dec. 10.

Zonta International created the program in 2012, with the Zonta Club of Woodstock joining in 2013 as part of their Zonta Says No campaign. The annual events are a partnership of multiple organizations in Oxford County including the Zonta Club of Woodstock, Domestic Assault Review Team Oxford, Ingamo Homes and Survivors Voices Oxford.

"It's increasing awareness and we're very lucky to have the expertise we have in our county," said Sheena Poole, the advocacy chair for Zonta Club of Woodstock. "A lot of people are working together and that's a great thing."

Throughout the 16 days, all three hospitals in the county and five high schools will take part. Several community events will also occur and international days of remembrance will be recognized. Each high school will have 100 grab bags prepared for students to take with information packages on healthy relationships and gifts from the Woodstock Police Services and Crime Stoppers.

Among the planned events was the lighting of purple lights at Canadian Mental Health Association Oxford, the showing of the film Human Trafficking: Canada's Secret Shame Dec. 7 and Domestic Abuse Service's Oxford free family skate on the red pad at the complex from 5:45 to 7:05 p.m. Dec. 9.

People will be at the Woodstock Hospital Dec. 7 handing out some of the 1,900 orange ribbons made to raise awareness and Dec. 6 will mark the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre with a candle light vigil.

They've previously been to Alexandra Hospital in Ingersoll, Tillsonburg Hospital and the lighting of purple and orange lights at the Woodstock Police Services building was Nov. 27.

The idea of the orange ribbon comes from the United Nations declaring the 25th of each month as "Orange Day" to raise awareness of violence against women.

The issue of gender violence is a large one and change can take generations, making the aim of starting with youth important.

"It's a long term process. Changing any type of violence has to start at a younger age. If you talk to an adult who's experiencing violence in their relationship, it can be hard for them to leave," Poole said. "There's financial aspects, there's power and control happening.

"For us, it's reaching out to the schools and each year we've had more involved. Having kids take the bags, we're getting to the youth and that's key for us to make changes," she added. "When they start thinking about what's a healthy relationship, that's a step forward. They're small steps, but over time we hope there'll be more individuals who avoid unhealthy relationships."

The aim is to use the 16 days to create awareness and enact change in communities.

"It's an indicator to the community of what's going on and to help raise awareness," Poole said of the events. "We want to bring awareness to the community about gender violence. We're hoping to make people more aware.

"It's about getting the word out. As much as we'd like to change overnight, we know it's a slow process," she added. "We have a very safe community, but the more people who get involved the more we can help."

***

A previous version of this story gave the wrong date for the free skate at the Woodstock District Community Complex's red pad. The story's been corrected and The Sentinel-Review apologizes for the mistake.

***

gcolgan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/GregatWSR