Violence Against Women Painting

Despite notable advances in addressing violence against women, a culture of gender-based violence remains pervasive in North America and throughout the world. The recent U.S. election campaign exposed this violence and blatant misogyny both in political discourse and in the behaviour and response of the electorate.

There is a responsibility to respond. November 25 (the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and the following 16 days of activism against gender-based violence offer an important opportunity. We invite you to attend panel discussions in Toronto (Nov 25), Quebec City (Nov 27), Montreal (Nov 29), and Ottawa (Dec 1) that feature Colombian human rights activist Isabel Caicedo Polanco and her Canadian counterparts.

Isabel Caicedo Polanco will tour Canada from November 23 — December 4. She works for the Organizacion Femenina Popular (OFP), one of the most respected, resilient and effective women’s rights organizations in Colombia. The OFP has worked tirelessly for peace for the past 44 years in Magdaleno Medio, a region that has been a focal point in Colombia’s over-52-year war.  Like so many, they were surprised and devastated by the narrow rejection of the peace accords in the plebiscite on October 2. Yet they continue to work for peace and, along with millions of Colombians, are hopeful that the new agreement signed on November 12 will lead to lasting and just peace.    

KAIROS has had the privilege of working in partnership with the OFP for more than 15 years.

By sharing the experience of the Organizacion Femenina Popular, Isabel Polanco will help us make the link between violence against women in Canada and Colombia. 

Joining Isabel are representatives from Indigenous women’s organizations including No More Silence, Quebec Native Women, Native Women’s Association of Canada, Families of Sisters in Spirit and Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association of Canada. 

In Canada, the political context seems to provide fertile ground to respond positively to gender-based violence. The prime minister is a self-declared feminist and says he is committed to a feminist foreign and international development policy. A recent study on women, peace and security by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE) includes strong recommendations supporting women’s rights organizations and women’s role in peacebuilding. 

And finally, after years of advocacy from families, a national inquiry is underway into the more than 1,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and the impunity that surrounds many of these cases. 

In Colombia and other parts of the globe, November 25 is significant in raising awareness of gender-based violence. This is the year to bring November 25 to Canada. While we need to work every day of the year to end violence against women, let’s use this date and the 16 days that follow to raise awareness about the root causes of violence against Indigenous women in Canada, and to support women’s rights organizations in Colombia, like the OFP, in their efforts to end violence and build peace in their war-torn country.

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