Gender-based violence the focus of 16 day campaign at Dalhousie University

HALIFAX – Students and faculty at Dalhousie University have launched 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in an effort to spark conversation within the greater community on subjects of misogyny, sexism and sexual assault.

The campaign is a partnership between the Office of Human Rights, Equity and Harassment Prevention and the university’s gender and women’s studies program. More than 30 events are planned in collaboration with partner organizations and surrounding schools.

READ: Dalhousie dentistry students break silence on ‘Gentlemen’s Club’ Facebook scandal

At the campaign’s kickoff on campus Wednesday, organizers said they were surprised at the amount of interest, something they attribute to the recent scandal surrounding the Dalhousie Dentistry school.

“I think what it did was put everybody on notice: this is something we need to be thinking about every day, that we can’t just kind of participate in a lot of jokes and think that they don’t matter,” said Margaret Denike, a professor in the political science department and the co-ordinator of the gender and women’s studies program.

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“That incident threw into relief the extent to which it matters and then I think it sort of instigated the kind of response you see in a campaign like this.”

In late 2014, a Facebook group surfaced with misogynistic and sexually-violent comments allegedly posted by male dentistry students. University president, Richard Florizone, appointed three members to a task force to examine the events of the Facebook scandal independently.

The review was led by Constance Backhouse, a professor at the University of Ottawa who is recognized for work on sex discrimination.

The report included several recommendations, including the need to focus on systemic change, as well as more education and research in the areas of sexism, misogyny and homophobia.

“We’re committed to that change, to working on that change,” Florizone told Global News Wednesday.

“As I said when that task force report was released, this will take us at least a couple of years, probably longer, and it’ll take the whole community working together. So today is a wonderful example of our faculty and staff working together to address those issues.”

Organizers also want the campaign to look beyond the scandal and beyond the university as a whole. Events, which include discussions, film screenings, panels and a vigil will be held on and off campus.

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“I think that [discussing gender based violence] is important at Dalhousie, it’s important in Halifax, it’s important in all our universities and our communities where we maybe have issues of misogyny, sexism, gender based violence and racism,” said Shakira Weatherdon, the education advisor for Dalhousie’s Human Rights, Equity and Harassment Prevention Office.

“We know this impacts everyone, whether we are victims or we’re perpetrators or we know someone. So it impacts a whole lot of us and as a community I think if it impacts one person, it impacts all of us.”

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is marked in Canada to include the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on December 6, the anniversary of the murder of 14 women at École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989.

The campaign ends on December 10, which is International Human Rights Day.

A full list of the campaign’s events can be found on their website.

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