**Trigger Warning: This post includes mentions of gender-based violence. A list of regionally available crisis lines isare available here for those who may need support: https://women-gender-equality.canada.ca/en/gender-based-violence-knowledge-centre/crisis-lines.html
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence is an annual international campaign that calls out and speaks up against gender-based violence (GBV), and reaffirms a commitment to ending violence against women, girls, and 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals.
The 16 Days begin on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and end on December 10, Human Rights Day. In Canada, we also observe the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on December 6 each year, in memory of the 14 women—many of whom were engineering students—who were murdered in an antifeminist mass shooting at École Polytechnique in 1989.
Each year, the anniversary of December 6, 1989, reminds us that the engineering profession must take action against GBV, as our colleagues, students, teachers, and community have felt its impacts first-hand. Thirty-four years later, GBV continues to be a crucial issue and one that is in fact increasing in Canada, according to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability.
The federal government has set the theme of the 16 Days for 2023 as Listen. Learn. Act. It addresses the key steps to tackling GBV. According to the federal government, LISTEN refers to supporting survivors who share their experience, and to the experts that work on the frontlines. LEARN encourages us to educate ourselves on what GBV is, how to spot it, and how we can prevent it and take action. ACT is for taking the information and applying it in our daily lives, to collectively tackle GBV.
As we mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, all of us in the engineering community can reflect on how we can Listen. Learn. Act. to make GBV in the engineering profession a thing of the past:
- LISTEN to the stories of survivors of GBV. In 2023, Engineers Canada published the Guideline for Engineers and Engineering Firms on Workplace Equity for Women. To supplement this guideline, Engineers Canada worked in collaboration with Dr. Camille Hernández-Ramdwar, Author, Consultant, and former Associate Professor Emerita, Toronto Metropolitan University, to develop a piece that complements the guideline and embeds women’s lived experiences. The stories featured in this piece, include real experiences of physical and verbal violence in the engineering profession.
- LEARN how every one of us has a role to play in preventing and taking action against GBV. During the 2023 30 by 30 conference, Engineers Canada facilitated a discussion with Paulette Senior, CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, on how to go beyond the legal framework to be an anti-violence and anti-harassment workplace. Topics included myths around gender-based violence, what individuals can do to shift the culture of a workplace away from shame and silence, and resources that survivors can use to navigate often-inadequate systems, such as a recent resource developed for survivors of workplace harassment, AfterMeToo. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence is the perfect opportunity to watch (or re-watch) this discussion.
- ACT: as we listen and learn, we must take the information and apply it in our daily lives to tackle GBV. Professional engineers commit to safeguarding human life and welfare, which requires a recognition of injustices when they occur, and a responsibility to take action against them. The past 16 days cannot, and should not be the start or the end of this work, and anti-violence must be something we work towards, unwaveringly, always.