Dozens of people marched for women’s rights to be safe in their own communities last Wednesday, marking the first Take Back the Night march in Hay River in recent memory.
“It’s been very successful for a first year,” organizer Victoria Deegan told The Hub. “There’s been good collaboration between a few agencies in town, and that really shows when so many people come out for a cause like this.”
Deegan credits good promotion efforts for the high turnout. She said messages on the Rotary Club’s billboard on the Don Stewart Recreation Centre, the green screen on the community tv channel, in newspapers, as well as a poster campaign and old-fashioned word of mouth contributed to the event’s success. Marches for similar causes, such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders or even last year’s march against family violence have struggled to draw more than a handful of people directly involved in agencies committed to dealing with those issues. This march saw men and women – albeit a much larger proportion of the latter – from all walks of life and of all ages take to the streets.
“I think next year I’d like to focus on getting more men out,” said Deegan. “We were a little bit under the gun this year in terms of planning, but next year, we’ll start earlier and maybe see about getting some draw prizes like tools and stuff to hopefully get more men out marching. This is an issue for them too.”
Take Back the Night is an international movement that seeks to raise awareness and support for ending violence against women. It has its roots as far back as 17th century London when women took to the streets to promote safety as notorious serial killer of women Jack the Ripper was active. Since then, it has proliferated to many countries in North America and Europe. Hay River’s event was incorporated into Family Violence Awareness Week, and involved children at several schools through a poster and colouring campaign.The results decorated the walls of the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre last Wednesday.
Mayor Andrew Cassidy spoke at the centre where the marchers gathered beforehand, saying that the statistics for violence against women in the North are staggering.
“In 2011, in the NWT, we had five times the national average of women seeking shelter from violence,” he said.
Cassidy did note, however, that while the issue is ongoing and needs attention, it is also getting the support it needs be quelled.
“There are a lot of terrible statistics out there about violence against women, not just in the North, but across Canada,” he said. “But there are also movements and events like this one, resources for victims, to fight it.”
K’atlodeeche First Nation Chief Roy Fabian also spoke before the march started, telling stories of his personal journey to become a better person.
“It’s difficult for men, especially, to look in the mirror,” he said. “But I did, and it wasn’t some looking glass, it was other people. I saw myself reflected in how other people around me act towards me because of who I was… I had a lot to learn.”