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16 Days of Activism targets gender-based violence

Across Huron County this month and next, community members will be taking a stand against gender-based violence.

Huron is part of a global movement called16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which began Nov. 25 and runs until International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

“We decided to do something a little more formal and expansive across the county this year,” said Selena Hazlitt, a member of Huron’s Domestic Assault Response Team (DART), which is spearheading the local event.

“It’s about engaging community, spreading awareness and education about the impacts of gender-based violence on our families, on our community and overall well-being.”

The 16 Days of Activism movement launched in 1991 in the United States and has since spread to 187 countries around the world.

Huron County Library branches will be displaying 16 Days banners during this year’s campaign, and lower-tier municipalities will be lowering their flags to half-mast on Dec. 6.

The gesture is part of a national day of remembrance for victims of gender-based violence, including the 14 women killed on Dec. 6, 1989 at l’Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal.

A ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. at Courthouse Square in Goderich that day, with several speakers on hand to mark the occasion.

At 7 p.m., the Huron County Museum in Goderich will host a screening of the documentary A Better Man, followed by a discussion led by Huron DART facilitators.

The student council at F.E. Madill Secondary School in Wingham will also be selling roses on Dec. 6 to raise awareness of the National Day of Remembrance, with proceeds going to the Huron Women’s Shelter, said Hazlitt.

“That’s a really great example of the community hearing about the 16 Days of Activism … and then local groups taking some action to bring awareness to it,” she said.

“It’s really great to see.”

This year’s 16 Days of Activism come in the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, which have brought attention to sexual assault and sexual misconduct, often against women.

“It’s wonderful to see these movements come up, the hashtags that go along with it, and more people talking about it,” said Hazlitt.

“I think any time that people come forward,it’s courageous, it’s inspiring. It engages more people to want to understand more, perhaps take action to self-reflect on their own actions, and perhaps seek the support that they need, either in healing as a victim or an abuser.”

While #MeToo and Time’s Up may have begun to change attitudes about gender-based violence, Hazlitt noted there is still work to be done.

“I think having the conversation occurring is a fabulous step in it, and an important step,” she said. “But absolutely,there’s still a long way to go.”

Organizers hope the 16 Days of Activism will strike a chord with community members and inspire them to become more educated and active.

“It doesn’t matter what action you’re taking,” said Hazlitt. “If it’s in a positive manner, it’s giving to the collective effort worldwide.”

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