Hear from those working to end gender-based violence

From November 25 to December 10, we mark 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. This is a time when we shine a light on gender-based violence happening in our communities and around the world – as well as the work being done to put an end to it.

A woman walking alone with an umbrellaDuring disasters and emergencies, and the time that follows, we see an increase in gender-based violence. Sadly, this trend has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to the Government of Canada, the Canadian Red Cross provided grants to community organizations who are on the frontlines during the pandemic. Some of them are working to address gender-based violence, We took a moment to talk to some of these organizations about the nature of the work and how they are adapting to meet their clients needs during COVID-19.

In Newfoundland, Violence Prevention Avalon East is an alliance of community and government agencies who are committed to ending violence at home and in their communities. Valerie Barter, Executive Director, said, “We are dedicated to creating a safe environment, where all people in Newfoundland have the ability to live a life without fear of physical, sexual, emotional, or any other form of violence. We are also on a mission to ensure the voices of survivors are shown in the work we do, and that they feel heard. We believe It is a basic human right to live without fear of physical, sexual, emotional or any other form of violence.”

Valerie is directly seeing the impact of COVID-19. Typically they would receive two messages a day, but since the pandemic has left people isolating at home with added pressure like financial concerns, this number has risen to six or seven. “Since the beginning our calls have increased significantly,” Valerie said. “It could be a call, a Facebook message, or email, but people who are facing violence in their own homes are struggling to find ways to reach out for help.”

In response to the new challenges the pandemic presented, Violence Prevention Avalon East launched the UnSafe at Home campaign. “We hear government officials and media advertisements encouraging us to stay home,” Valerie said. “Our office alongside a few volunteers quickly realized this message could be harmful for those experiencing intimate partner violence, what if home is not a safe place to be? With Canadian Red Cross funding we were able to staff and developed the UnSafe at Home website landing page and social media campaigns, videos, webinars, radio ads, and TV ads.”

“Gender-based violence is a public health problem and a human rights violation.” Lisa Ogbole from Imani’s Place said. They are another organization who received a Red Cross grant that is working to help people who are experiencing gender-based violence in Ontario.

Imani’s Place helps by “providing a safe place where victims can heal, rehabilitate, and learn life skills that will help them integrate back into society.” Lisa said. They also work in their community by operating a crisis line and help spread awareness. The funding from Red Cross has helped them operate their mental health hotline, where they provide support and counselling to youth.

The Dandelion Initiative is an organization founded and staffed “by survivors for survivors”, Viktoria Belle is the Executive Director and Founder, as well as a gender-based violence educator and policy specialist. “Since 2016 we have served on average 250 survivors a year as a small team of two. We have trained over 1,500 hospitality workers through our Safer Bars & Spaces program.” She explained, they also work to create policy in workplaces.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dandelion Initiative has also taken their work online. They have used their Red Cross grant to hire a new peer support team to provide trauma care to LGBTQ and BIPOC survivors, provide safety and care kits to women and children in shelters as well as survivors in the community. Clients also have access to online resources like their Survivor Safety Planning toolkit and workshops.

Like Barter, Belle noted that gender-based violence was a problem before COVID-19, but she is seeing a rise in cases, “This increase is often because pandemics and times of economic uncertainty are linked to many risk factors that expose women and feminized people to gender-based violence.”

Recognizing and responding to gender-based violence can feel daunting, but one of the first steps we can take is to educate ourselves about it.  “We urge everyone to find a place in their hearts, lives and days to learn more about how they can recognize, prevent and respond to gender-based violence.” Viktoria said.

Related stories:

See your impact in action.

Sign up to receive impact updates from the Canadian Red Cross, inspirational stories from the field and be the first to hear about emergency relief efforts.

The Canadian Red Cross takes your privacy seriously. We do not distribute or sell your email address to anyone. View our privacy policy.

Blog Archives