Remembrance and Action for Gender-Based Violence (And All of Us)

We can reflect on gender-based violence and the victims of it and take action, but we must do both if we want change.

Today is a day of National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. (You can read more about it here). This is a theme that’s rarely — if ever — tied to innovation except maybe here on Censemaking.

That’s a shame because few topics could benefit from new thinking (and action) than violence against women. Gender-based violence exists everywhere, and its effects harm women, children, and men. No one is spared from this epidemic, even if its effects are distributed differently and often to a fatal extent.

The Numbers

Very few things get me as upset as gender-based violence. It’s among the most senseless human acts — like other forms of discrimination, hatred, and abuse – and is among the most widespread forms of abuse globally. This is an issue that affects us all in ways visible and hidden.

The World Bank reports:

  • 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.
  • Globally, 7% of women have been sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner.
  • Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
  • 200 million women have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made a bad situation much worse for many women. In times of economic uncertainty and upheaval, the risks to women increase due to financial pressures and limitations in what and where women can do to leave abusive partners. It bears reminding: this is all of our issue.

We all can make choices that help reduce the incidence and effects of gender-based violence.

Choices and Actions

As I’ve said before, gender-based violence is a design issue. By that, I mean that we have designed our institutions, cultures, and society in ways that enable violence to occur and persist.

These design choices might not mean we explicitly chose to have gender-based violence occur; however it is our choices — our designs — that create the conditions for it to persist. These include:

  • The choice to underfund resources for gender-based violence given the scope, prevalence and size of the issues.
  • When we choose to ignore, underreport, or obscure the scale, scope, causes and consequences of gender-based violence.
  • Our decisions to (rightly) support women and children (treatment) while providing little in the way of support for men (prevention and early intervention).
  • When we fail to acknowledge and recognize how men learn violence and not the means to express themselves in non-violent ways.
  • Our neglectful discussion of gender-based violence in schools, places of worship, and workplaces.
  • When we show support for patriarchal structures that privilege men and masculine views over women and other gendered perspectives rather than embracing equity, inclusion, and psychological safety.
  • Our lack of acknowledgement of how gender-based violence is everywhere.

These are design issues and we can design solutions that fit. First, we need to acknowledge the choices we make. Next, we need to make different choices that lead to actions.

This December 6th, let’s commit to making every day one of remembrance and action on an issue that has affected us all. For sixteen days (and the three hundred forty-nine others), we can take the kind of actions that make a difference, by design.

For more suggestions on what we can do, see this earlier post with a list of actionable steps and resources.

Image credits: Cameron Norman (author) and  Jack Brown on Unsplash

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