White Ribbon: Taking Action Around the World to End Violence Against Women, Part 1: Australia, NZ, South Pacific

November 24, 2013 Michael Kaufman

The first of a week-long series with White Ribbon stories & links from around the world…

And check out The Guardian article by Gary Barker and me, “We Must Enlist Men and Boys in the Fight to End Violence Against Women”

It’s a tragedy in every country. Extensive studies by the World Health Organization tell us that one in three women worldwide will experience violence from a male partner.

That is, unless we do something to stop it.

For the past four decades, women have stood up and said enough! They set up shelters for women escaping abusive relationships; they pushed for legal reform; they spoke out against the attitudes, beliefs, and gender inequality that lead to this violence.




On the New Zealand White Ribbon Motorcycle Ride 2013

Twenty-two years ago, three of us, three men in Toronto, sparked a campaign that was immediately taken up by men across Canada. Since then it has spread around the world.

Over the next few days, I will highlight some news from White Ribbon around the world. I hope you’ll add your own comments and reports about what you’re doing in your community. (Please say where you’re writing from.)

If you’d like to dig deeper into White Ribbon, click here for an article I wrote called: The Day the White Ribbon Campaign Changed the Game.  Or go to the end of this blog for a bit more about the basic principles of White Ribbon and how it’s organized.

Today, let’s start with…

Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands

Throughout this region, November 25, the UN’s International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women, is known as White Ribbon Day.

Australia’s White Ribbon is the biggest of all the WR campaigns in the world. White Ribbon has a significant public presence, a new workplace initiative, and school-based programs, a large number of ambassadors—that is men who make a commitment to speak out in their communities. It has an excellent policy research series. It puts out some great ads, including this one about uncovering the country’s secrets. In its campaign, men are invited to “swear the oath” to stand up and speak out against violence, as highlighted in this ad.

New Zealand’s campaign has an interesting spine: During the last two weeks of November, the White Ribbon Ride forms the basis for events communities on both the north and south islands. Former gang members and members of the military ride from town-to-town, speaking in schools, meeting with local officials.  This year’s campaign includes the release of a short film, “What is Him” which explores the links between our dominant ideas of manhood and men’s violence.  Meanwhile, across the country, men are asked to sign an online pledge not to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women.

Solomon Islands: there are TV and radio broadcasts, marches, meetings and school events. The Australian Navy is working with the Christian Care Centre, the only refuge for survivors of domestic violence, to ensure the safety of the women living there.

Tonga and Kiribati, Fiji and Somoa are among the island states that have activities in schools, public meetings, poster campaigns, and marches.

Pacific Islands networking: WRC has been present in many Pacific nations for a few years now, and operates alongside a new endeavor, the Pacific Prevention of Domestic Violence Programme, a joint venture between New Zealand police, aid organizations, and the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police. For White Ribbon Day, organizers are putting together poster campaigns, such as this one for the island of Nauru.

Nauru – White Ribbon 2013

A couple of years ago, a group of Polynesian musicians recorded this wonderful music video for their own WR efforts.

ALL THIS WEEK: White Ribbon in Europe.  In the Americas. In Asia. In Africa & the Middle East. In Australia & the Pacific.

Prepared by Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite and Michael Kaufman

White Ribbon’s messages:

  • Although most men don’t use violence in our relationships, all men have a responsibility to helping make it end. Why? Because our silence becomes a form of tacit consent. White Ribbon works to end men’s silence.
  • We know that the violence stems from social inequality between women and men. The violence won’t end until women enjoy full equality in the law, within our religions, in our workplaces, and in our families.
  • We also know that men’s violence stems from the ways we raise boys to be men and the impossible expectations of manhood. If we want to raise boys to be good men who won’t ever use violence, then a model of caring, non-violent masculinity must start in the home. We must stop raising our sons to fear showing feelings, to fear vulnerability, to feel they must always be in control.
  • We recognize the need to go beyond awareness-raising campaigns. We push for better laws, police training, new policies in workplaces, courses for new parents, and school-based programs.

White Ribbon works like this:

  • It is a decentralized campaign. We believe that people know best in their own countries and communities how to reach the men and boys around them.
  • It’s international. Over the years, it’s spread to 70 or 80 countries.
  • In some countries there is an actual WR organization. In most, it’s a campaign run by other organizations or a government office or simply a group of volunteers in a school, workplace, community, or place of worship.
  • It works in partnership with women’s organizations and urges men to listen to women’s voices and concerns.
  • It focuses on positive messages. This is not about collective guilt. This is about working for healthy and loving relationships, and positive models of parenting.

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