White Ribbon Day: what is it and why does it matter?

Today, all men are encouraged to wear a white ribbon and promise to help put an end to violence against women

Today, November 25, is White Ribbon Day. For those unfamiliar, the charity White Ribbon UK asks all men to wear a white ribbon and make the promise to ‘never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women’.

Tomorrow, the ’16 Days of Action’ follows, promoting the message through awareness-raising events and fundraising activities.

Whenever the phrase ‘violence against women’ is mentioned, it is almost immediately categorised as a ‘women’s issue’. It’s women that make up the majority of the anti-violence sector; and it’s mostly women that speak out against it. Unfortunately, almost all violence against women is perpetrated by men, and it will only ever come to an end if men take up responsibility for change.

White Ribbon UK has been working to change those cultures that lead to violence against women within the United Kingdom. The charity aims to take the responsibility in ending gender-based violence away from women, and engage directly with men through training, awareness-raising and accreditation programmes.

During this year’s 16 days – partly in response to the #MeToo campaign – the charity is particularly encouraging younger men and boys to become role models for change within their communities, and are introducing a new Youth Advocate Programme for 14 – 18-year-olds; which schools, colleges, and youth clubs can implement.

White Ribbon UK Chief Executive, Anthea Sully said, ‘As a charity that works towards ending male violence against women, it is essential that we engage with young people – particularly boys.

‘Our Youth Advocate Programme aims to stand in the way of that process, so that boys learn that certain behaviours, language and attitudes are unacceptable.’

Male violence against women is overwhelmingly prevalent: according to the 2018 Crime Survey for England and Wales, 20 per cent of women have experienced sexual assault, and an average of two women a week are murdered by a current or former partner.

The reason this gender-based violence exists is because men are conditioned from an early age by our society with a sense of superiority over women. The sexist cultures within our society, an expectation that ‘boys will be boys’, and the objectification of women’s bodies creates a continuum that starts with catcalling, wolf whistling and sexism; and ends with physical violence, rape and murder of women.

Gender-based violence is everyone’s issue, and we all must work together to end it.

For more information about the work that White Ribbon UK does, and how to get involved; visit whiteribbon.org.uk

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