Letter: Join #GirlsToo with 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence

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Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta is committed to preventing gender-based violence and advocating for gender equality because we know that all girls can experience violence and inequality.

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As a voice for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence from November 25 to December 10, 2021, I am writing to help urge the community to learn and act on preventing and addressing gender-based violence – individually and collectively, thereby seeking representation of #GirlsToo.

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual global call to action to end gender-based violence – any form of harm against persons based on their gender identity, how they express themselves or existing stereotypes.

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While gender-based violence affects anyone, some experience it more frequently and in more distinct ways than others – particularly girls and gender-diverse youth. Notably, the magnitude of their experience varies depending on how intricately gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender overlap and intertwine with different factors contributing to the sense of safety.

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These include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, sexuality, age, living conditions, health, mobility, accessibilities, exceptionalities, religion, citizenship, history and more.

Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta knows that there are unique layers of existing and newly emerging gendered barriers, challenges, and vulnerabilities that girls particularly go through.

We also know that each girl experiences these barriers differently depending on how and where you are situated in various spaces – home, school, community, domestic-international, media, online etc.

And these have been exacerbated through violence and inequality heightened by the COVID19 induced adjustments, flooding, and economic downturn over the past two years.

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Our #GirlsToo program tackles this complex issue head-on. Building on #MeToo, #GirlsToo is a movement in and of itself. It calls out that #MeToo is not just an 18+ movement. Respect starts young. Actions start young. Changes start young.

This program offers age-appropriate education via in-school programming and after-school workshops to equip participants with skills and knowledge to recognize, prevent and address gender-based violence of various forms and levels.

Participants will learn consent, healthy relationships, gendered challenges, and what to do when/if they face gender-based violence. They will learn how to be part of a solution. It further facilitates opportunities for participants to learn self-defense strategies while helping to build their self-confidence.

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Through arts-based advocacy and honest discussion in a safe space, they will learn how to advocate for a cultural shift towards healing, empowerment, supporting survivors, breaking the silence, and ultimately, ending gender-based violence – individually and collectively.

For this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence campaign, Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta is engaging youth, local restaurants, and social media to amplify the #GirlsToo movement.

  • With youth, there will be a series of four workshops for girls ages 10+ on 1) girls’ and women’s rights in Canada through the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 2) the role of media in gender-based violence, 3) what an ally looks like by unpacking Islamophobia and racism, and 4) how to break the cycle of gender-based violence while supporting survivors.
  • With local restaurants, #GirlsToo themed napkins and postcards will be distributed so that the community can start paying more attention to what 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is all about and how one could be an advocate for #GirlsToo movement. Biggest thank-you to the participating restaurants for partnering with us: Avenue Coffee, Boston Pizza (Downtown and Timberlea), Mr. Mikes, Stacs, Surekha’s on the Snye and 57 North Kitchen and Brewery.
  • On social media, we are calling for nominations for someone taking actions to create a cultural shift towards supporting survivors and breaking the silence. Prizes to be won.

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As mentioned earlier, gender-based violence affects anyone. Feeling like you are stuck, feeling like you are silenced, feeling like you are conditioned to meet certain self- and societal-expectations… these feelings may be experienced similarly. It is the magnitude or the process these feelings experienced that may differ depending on where and how one is located at given intersections.

It is our hope that #GirlsToo calls for actions from everyone to create changes by learning how inequality and violence are at work in our community and the world, how each person experiences intersecting barriers and violence of various forms differently and how we as human beings can strengthen resiliency to gender-based violence.

Reflect. Act. Support those who come forward and share their struggles with you. Listen to different voices. Start questioning what ‘being safe’ and ‘peace’ might look like. Do what you can. Take positive risks. Call out when you encounter gender-based violence of any form. And most importantly, voice to break the silence together. Join the #GirlsToo dialogue today.

How will you act for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence this year?

Nanase Tonda, executive director of Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta

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