16 Days of Activism raises awareness and creates activism
Article: Paige Kreutzwieser – Staff Writer
For 16 days, one Regina woman is trying to make a difference.
Jill Arnott, Executive Director of the University of Regina Women’s Centre, hopes the 16 Days of Activism Campaign held at the University of Regina, and around the city, will cause students to be more aware of the issues facing Saskatchewan’s communities.
“It’s quite easy to go through our privileged lives and not be aware of things that go on in the world around us.”
The 16 Days of Activism is an international campaign that runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10. The campaign commences on the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women, and concludes on the International Human Rights Day.
The focus of the 16 days is to raise awareness and activism against gender-based violence.
“We try really hard to mark these days by highlighting organizations and individuals that are doing great work,” explained Arnott. “But we are also really hammering home the work that needs to be done.”
Arnott says we are still living in a world where women are extremely vulnerable to violence and poverty.
“We want people to be aware the work isn’t finished.”
Arnott was highlighted on campus on Nov. 28 in a discussion where she spoke about why we still need feminism. More involvement from the local community was also a focus in Arnott’s promotion of the 16 Days campaign.
The amount of violence and exploitation still happening to women is something Arnott wants to see changed.
“We are collectively responsible for the world we live in and I’m not okay with what goes on.”
In her discussion, Arnott expressed her concern with mainstream media socializing boys to see their emotions as problematic.
“In North America, in terms of popular construction of masculinity, [sensitivity] is not what we see in our pop culture in terms of being successful.”
“It does damage to men, it does damage to women and we all collectively pay for that.”
She feels a personal responsibility to not only her local community, but also to the global community, and is pushing people to have this same sense of responsibility.
“I am privileged in my life to live where I live, to have the people that I have, to know I’ll never be alone,” said Arnott about why she believes responsibility is mandatory.
“Not everyone has [those privileges] and that is not because of a personal failing. I’m just lucky. So being where I am located, I feel that privilege also comes with responsibility.”
Arnott has always had a passion for activism, starting when she was young. Although she had no specific circumstance that caused this passion, she has just always wanted to help those in need. As a child, she would do things like give away her winter jackets to those less fortunate than her.
Arnott believes her education is really what pushed her to become more active. She explained that it gave her an understanding of the frameworks of inequality and the systems of privilege and power around her.
Although she may no longer give her jackets away, “I am pushing for change on a more systematic level.”
Arnott has been working with the University of Regina Women’s Centre since 2008. For her, campaigns like the 16 Days of Activism are important – especially on campus.
Arnott knows that finding time as a student to make change can be difficult.
“Part of the problem with the 16 days is that it falls at a really bad time in the semester. Classes are wrapping up, it’s in the middle of finals.”
But Arnott also feels a sense of apathy on campus.
“Students don’t want to be approached in the hallway. Part of it is because students are busy, but part of it I think too is that it’s comfortable to not have to bother with stuff like this.
“But, it is not a comfortable thing . . . it is painful stuff to talk about.”
She does admit that someone should not be faulted for being unaware but “once you know and chose to do nothing that is completely different.”
“So a lot of what we do on campus is about awareness.”
Arnott would like to see learning beyond the textbooks at university. She would like to have a component built into university life and academics so that it is mandatory for students to participate.
“Whether that is coming to events, being engaged in the community, so people can see the connections between their life here and their learning here and their world at large and maybe that way we would have a little bit of a bridge.”
On campus, the Women’s Centre will be holding Bake Sales to help raise money for an organization working to stop violence against women.
A vigil on Dec. 6 will also be held at the university to remember those killed in the Dec. 6, 1989 Montreal Massacre. The Women’s Centre, along with the Faculty of Engineering, will hold the ceremony in the Riddell Centre.
“The vigil is something that we want people to remember that 14 women were killed in 1989, that it’s not ok what happened, and also that [the gunman] came from a particular place and we are still dealing with some of those same root causes,” explained Arnott.
“It’s easy to think he was just a psychopath like some sort of random event that will never happen again, except it does happen.”
“Every day women are experiencing violence and so part of the knowing and the awareness is people then maybe feel empowered to talk about it and then make change.”
Arnott sees feminist action as extremely important to society.
“We can’t thrive when such a large portion of our population is disempowered and undervalued.”
She wants to see more collective action being done to crate equal opportunities of dignity for everyone. That is why the 16 Days of Activism campaign in Regina is so meaningful to Arnott.
“I need to be contributing to improving things, to be making things better.”
Alongside the university, The Artful Dodger is a venue within the city that is promoting the campaign as well. They showed a the documentary Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth on Dec. 4. As well, as recognizing the International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 with the Amnesty International Write for Rights event.Image: Rikkeal Bohmann