International Women’s day is a day to honour women around this world. Woman should be honoured and respected every day of the year but on this particular day you can go out of your way to do something good for the women in your life, and/or to support a cause involving women like the Indigenous Missing and Murdered Women call for a National Inquiry.
The UN declares an International Women's Day theme and for 2013 it is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”. A great theme, a needed theme and one that requires the action of every person and reflects leadership’s promise to eradicate violence in our world.
Canada's theme for International Women's Day 2013 is Working Together: Engaging Men to End Violence against Women. What immediately comes to my mind is the BC Association of Friendship Centres moose hide campaign where men where a piece of moose hide to raise awareness and signify their personal commitment to ending violence against Aboriginal women and girls. If you see a man wearing a piece of moose hide, congratulate him and ask him how he is making a difference in the pursuit of a violence free environment.
As an indigenous woman, many of my friends, family and community members worlds have been marred by acts of violence: rape, sexual assault, physical assault, mental abuse and the list goes on. A recent rape of a beautiful indigenous woman who is well known to me has left me feeling sick to stomach, mourning the carefree, happy person she was and will struggle to become again, and has my soul crying out, why? How can we stop this? How well do we support our women who go through this? I wish beyond anything that our indigenous sisters did not have to be treated with such violence and horrific incidences that leaves them with years of healing and regaining of trust. Scars will be present and for some, the wounds still open.
The federal government refused to do a National inquiry on Missing and Murdered indigenous women even though the numbers involved are well over 600. Instead, on Feb. 27th, 2013, with a unanimous vote of parliament put in place a special committee that will “conduct hearings on the critical matter of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, and to propose solutions to address the root causes of violence against Indigenous women across the country.”
Hopefully such a committee will begin its work immediately and be able to make interim solutions that can be implemented immediately so that more vulnerable indigenous women are not victims of crimes of violence.
In BC, Wally Oppal’s report on Missing and Murdered women recommended a champion to provide advice to government as it implements the recommendations in Oppal’s report. Steven Point, the form Lieutenant Governor of BC was appointed to be this champion and to chair a new advisory committee on the safety and security of vulnerable women and provide community based guidance on the report’s 63 recommendations. Another step forward though I wish a woman had been the champion but then again if this year's theme is engaging men to end violence, it fits. Steven Point always does a great job in whatever he does and I hope great strides in progress will be made.
The problem with committees is that they can only make recommendations, and the Oppal report already has recommendations. Action needs to be taken and taken now. We have been dealing with these issues for too long and answers and solutions must happen now.
Personal action can start today. You can start treating woman with respect and dignity. Women must be put in positions of influence, leadership, and valued for their impressive qualifications and not cast aside because they are not a man. Women’s opinions can be utilized instead of having their voices belittled, ignored or put down. Lateral violence is alive and well by some men in dealing with women.
Women are the givers of life, the knowledge keepers, the heart of our families and nations. How much stronger we would be if all our indigenous woman lived in healthy, violence free environments. Energy could be put into moving our families, communities and nations forward and not in putting themselves out of a black hole that was created by situations of violence.
Violence against women is a big issue, a global issue and one that impacts on our personal lives. It is time for all of us to devote time and attention to creating a safe, secure world for all women. Not a world where our families are forced to deal with the agony of a missing family member, a family member that has been sexually or physically assaulted or a woman being verbally abused. As with Idle No More, we need to raise our voices to bring attention to the fact that indigenous women are 3.5 times more likely to be a victim of violence, commit to ending that violence and find ways personally, politically, and collectively to stamp out violence against indigenous and non indigenous women alike. For the sake of our daughters, granddaughters, mothers, grandmothers and many generations to come, let's so something!