University of Calgary

Students become activists against gender violence

UToday HomeDecember 4, 2012

By Sanita Dhillon

Cindy Robert (far right) with WRC volunteers and visitors at the activist poster making event.Cindy Robert (far right) with WRC volunteers and visitors at the activist poster making event.Every year from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, the United Nations recognizes 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. The 16-day campaign raises awareness and promotes action on this pervasive human rights violation. This year, student volunteers at the Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) are enthusiastically becoming activists — individuals who take actions, big or small, to advocate for social change.

“To have the freedom and space to express yourself within a supportive community feels great,” says Cindy Robert, a fifth-year development studies honours major and volunteer who is leading many of the initiatives at the WRC. “The initiatives are the exact intersection of all of my academic and personal interests.”

Robert explains that her desire to become an activist has been a journey for her. While travelling to many countries through her previous volunteer work, she met many people who had been impacted by different types of violence.

“When I talked someone in Rwanda who told me about hiding for several days during the genocide, I realized how much violence exists in the world and how personally it impacts people. It made me question the way our own culture is violent, primarily against women,” says Robert.

Through her studies, Robert began to focus on how gender violence is embedded in western society, which led her to want to become more of an activist on campus and encourage others to be activists.

Last month, she collaborated with other WRC volunteers to organize a number of workshops that would expose students to creative forms of activism, including Dances for Peace and Healing. “It gave people the chance to explore a different side of themselves and experience a centering activity. People said that they left feeling a sense of peace.”

Robert and the team hope that their initiatives have helped students see that everyone is capable being activists and that creativity is key. In addition, WRC volunteers have written annual “Thoughts of the Day”, on the WRC website for each of the 16 days to expose the different types of violence women face and the small actions all individuals can take to stop it.

As the final part of the 16 days, the WRC is hosting its annual public Dec. 6 memorial to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This day was announced by Canada following the murder of 14 women at L'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989. Remembering this horrific event has become the basis of recognizing and supporting action against widespread violence committed against women in our society.

The memorial will take place on Thursday, Dec. 6 from 12:15-1 p.m. in the Husky Oil Great Hall in the Rozsa Centre. For more information, please visit: http://www.ucalgary.ca/women/dec6memorial

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign uses the days between International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25) and International Human Rights Day (December 10) to emphasize that all forms of violence against women is a human rights violation.