Locals march in 2014 in support of Take Back the Night.

Opinion: Gender Violence

Tonight, the Golden Women’s Resource Centre (GWRC) is hosting their annual Take Back the Night event.

Tonight the Golden Women’s Resource Centre (GWRC) is hosting their annual Take Back the Night event, a march that takes place worldwide to keep hammering the message that violence against women needs to stop.

This year the message will carry even more weight than usual, as this is an election year and gender-based violence has become an election issue.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair has pledged to end violence against women, and specifically curb violence against aboriginal women through funding ($40 million over four years)for shelters and transition homes for women and families fleeing violence.

He made the announcement in Saskatchewan, which holds the highest rate of “intimate partner violence” with rates that more than double Ontario and Quebec.

The Conservatives and Stephen Harper have also pledged to continue providing  $92.5 million for on-reserve shelters throughout the country.

The GWRC has been tackling the issue locally for years, trying to identify Golden’s specific needs to curb domestic violence. A gender-based analysis conducted in 2012 has given them some clear priorities and goals for the community.

Most of the 17 recommendations that came out of the analysis focused on education and prevention.

I think it’s great that the government is pledging to support shelters, a vital support for people fleeing violence who have nowhere else to go. It is absolutely essential. But it’s not going to fix the problem.

Shelters, out of necessity, are private and secretive. They provide help to people who need it, but do so behind closed doors, and cannot prevent the violence from happening in the first place. Only awareness and education can do that.

And the best way to make the education effective is to get it out at an early age. Stop the cycle of violence before it starts.

The GWRC has specifically pinpointed engaging youth and young boys to teach them about gender-based bullying and violence, and to discuss the reasons why these incidents often go unreported.

These long-term solutions to violence will, in the end, be the most effective, and I hope that whoever comes out ahead after the election saves some money in the budget. Then maybe one day the shelters will lose their usefulness.