From 25th November until the 10th December, people are encouraged to be active and take part in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in honour of White Ribbon Day. Changing Lives work across the UK to support women and girls suffering the effects of violence and abuse. In this blog Jacki Murphy, Integrated Services Manager of Changing Lives’ domestic abuse service in Halton, explains why we support White Ribbon Day, and why reaching out to men is an essential part of ending violence against women.
The White Ribbon campaign is the largest initiative involving men working to end male violence against women and girls. Domestic violence is not and has never been a ‘women’s issue’, and so the campaign is used to address men directly, to enable them to understand the scale of the problem, and become part of the solution, alongside women.
Men and boys have a crucial role to play in creating a culture where male violence, abuse and harassment against women and girls are seen as being unacceptable. The campaign hopes to support them to make a stand against gender violence in their workplaces, schools, communities and families.
There is no suggestion of being anti-male, rather creating space for healthier, more positive ways of being a man. Generally speaking, we know that most men are opposed to violence against women and girls, and that restrictive gender roles can harm men as much as women.
Wearing a white ribbon is a personal pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women, and men and boys are urged to wear a white ribbon to show their solidarity over the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
The campaign was started by a group of men in Canada in 1991, who decided they had a responsibility to urge men to speak out against violence against women. They decided that wearing a white ribbon would be a symbol of men’s opposition to male violence against women.
After 6 weeks of preparation, around 100,000 men across Canada wore a white ribbon, with many others being drawn in to the discussion and debate on the issue of men’s violence. There are now White Ribbon campaigns operating in many countries around the world, with the UK branch starting in 2004.
At Halton, we participate in White Ribbon Day every year and hold events across the borough, ranging from awareness raising campaigns to training for other professionals, and specific events.
We held a joint event with the Merseyside-based arts initiative, Big Love Sista, and used one of the local churches for an exhibition of art by victims of domestic abuse, with a series of craft workshops. The mayor attended, as did councillors and other professionals to participate and show their support for the campaign.
We also held a joint event with the local college, where students from the hairdressing and beauty departments joined us to offer their services to both men and women, and made customised t-shirts with the slogan ‘These Hands are not for Hurting.’ Attendees decorated the T-shirts using paints, sequins and whatever else we could get our hands on – all of which were then hung on a washing line to provide a powerful and moving message.
We support the White Ribbon campaign because we believe that to contribute to the end of violence against women, then we must reach out to men.
Sadly some men have learned to express their anger or insecurity through violence, or have come to believe that violence against a woman, child or another man is an acceptable way to control another person. The good news is that more and more men want to make a difference and help re-educate men who use violence against others.