Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Be a Change Maker

I attended the Building the Movement: Change Makers Conference, part of We Can BC, this past Saturday at the SFU Harbor Center in Vancouver.

The 'We Can' Campaign is an international campaign aimed to deal with the violence that women endure daily, both within their homes and in the larger community. In order to mobilize large sectors of the community, it has created the Change Maker campaign. Individuals sign on as Change Makers - men, women, boys and girls who pledge not to tolerate or commit violence against women, to re-examine their own beliefs and values, and to encourage at least five other people to do the same. The conference featured a panel of speakers and a workshop on becoming a change maker.

Indira Prahst was one of the speakers and a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at Langara College. One of the questions she asked was why is there a negative attitude towards women? She speculated on the devaluing of roles, women seen as an economic burden and socially constructed issues that can be changed. She also emphasized the need to deconstruct attitudes of culture and reconstruct new images of woman and the need to think of ways men can feel comfortable and not blamed.

Maggie Ip is involved with the S.U.C.C.E.S.S Foundation and spoke from a social services point of view. She noted that there is no ethnic boundary for domestic violence. There is a need to work with the victims as a social service organization, but noted that victims kept coming back, so we need to find the root of the problem and proposed support groups for men. Society must change their attitudes on how to protect the public and discussed three levels of change:
1 - Public education from early childhood to adult level;
2 - A zero tolerance policy and a change in the institution/system to recognize this; and
3 - Intervention.

Bill Saunders is President of the Vancouver & District Labour Council and raised the question of why nine out of ten domestic cases is men against women? He discussed how the root lies in the question of gender relationship and gender roles in society. Noting that women have been successful in evolving the definition of their role, he discussed that men now have to work to develop and evolve their role. One of the points he made, which I quite like was "Acquiescence does not mean understanding", when we understand then we cam facilitate in change. He stressed that we need to facilitate as a society the ability to open the discussion on gender relations and work with key groups of men to facilitate these changes.

Sgt. Richard Rabinovitch was a speaker from the Vancouver Police Department and addressed the question as to how the police can respond and improve responses to domestic violence in the community. An important step was to make the community realize that domestic violence is not a private issue and noted that domestic violence can not be pinpointed to one group, it spans all socio-economic boundaries.

A workshop on how to become a Change Maker followed the panel discussions. Information on how to become a Change Maker, and materials that can be of use can be found on the We Can website.

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