How Red Cross is addressing sexual and gender-based violence in Canada and around the world

From November 25 to December 16, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign is taking place around the world.

Sexual and gender-based violence, in a nutshell, means harmful acts against a person based on their gender identity. These acts can occur in private or in public, and include things that inflict physical, sexual, or mental harm and suffering, as well as threats, coercion, and acts that deny people their freedom. The Canadian Red Cross is works in partnership with key stakeholders, law enforcement, community-based organizations, governments, including Indigenous leadership to address sexual and gender-based violence in Canada and internationally.

When disasters and emergencies happen, we consistently see increased risk of violence, and specifically an increase of Sexual and Gender- Based Violence increase. When systems and networks that are in place to protect people from violence breakdown after disasters and emergencies, people who were already vulnerable are at a greater risk. The effects are long-lasting; daily life, dignity, and health, among other things, suffer.  Canadian Red Cross addresses sexual and gender-based violence by making sure the environments we work in are safe and supportive Partnering with community organizations and people who are active in their community helps us reach vulnerable and at-risk individuals.

a woman in Nepal smilingEducation is an incredibly important part of confronting and addressing sexual and gender-based violence. In Nepal, for example, the Canadian Red Cross and Nepal Red Cross have trained community-based health providers on sexual and gender-based violence prevention and response. They have also partnered to implement a community-based project that supports village committees to enhance protection of children and women from violence. 

In the days, months, and even years that follow a disaster we see cases of increased violence. Following the devastating wildfire impacting Fort McMurray and surrounding communities in 2016, community stakeholders highlighted the increase in marital breakdown, and family or domestic violence. The Canadian Red Cross collaborates with various agencies to expand services to prevent and respond to issues of increased violence. Since 2017, with Red Cross support, the partnership with Waypoints Community Services Association has expanded outreach and trauma counselling programs in the region. This initiative has led to both increased awareness and coordination around the issue, and most importantly, increased services to those affected.

When responding in the immediate days following a disaster or emergency, an emphasis on Protection, Gender and Inclusion also helps to address the heightened risk for sexual and gender-based violence by making sure that assistance is accessible to everyone. It can include things like privacy shields in an emergency room, locks on bathroom doors, and having the proper mechanisms in place to report and appropriately respond to violence.

More must be done to protect women, men and children from sexual and gender-based violence after disasters, which can happen anywhere.  This is why the Canadian Red Cross commits to continue our work in Canada and around the world on SGBV to raise awareness, appropriately respond, and prevent it from happening.  

Related stories:
Discussing gender-based violence
What happens to women and girls during disasters?
To reach the most vulnerable, especially vulnerable people must be remembered

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