Students and teachers at Mount Baker Secondary School are engaging in a campaign addressing gender-based violence. Students in Joanna Legrandeur’s psychology classes have been working on a nature/nurture unit which has led them into exploring the 16 Days of Activism Campaign.
Running from November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to December 10, Human Rights Day, The 16 Days of Activism Campaign originally began in 1991, created by the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute.
“When I introduced these concepts and ideas the students said ‘let’s take a look at this,’” said Legrandeur. “So we went through, we looked at it, we understood it and then we said let’s do something in the high school, just an awareness.”
Legrandeur described the project as a grassroots movement within Mount Baker, with herself as the conductor, responsible for researching and understanding the parameters of the campaign, but with her students as the players that chose the different things they wanted to work on.
The students are setting up displays around the school, working on art projects with Ms. Wilkinson’s art class such as drawing hands symbolizing that a vow that each student’s hand will never do any harm, and going around to other classrooms to talk about the campaign. Other teachers are involved as well, bringing social justice into their own classrooms.
“It’s a little bit of just an understanding that this is out there to be kind to people, to think about what we say and the actions that we take,” Legrandeur said. “And so this is what we’re doing and I’m really, I’m so happy with the kids. We have fun and we’ve learned and I’ve learned about what it’s like to do this huge project.”
Legrandeur said she’s had tremendous support from her staff, the administration, the community and of course from the students themselves, who have embraced the project whole-heartedly.
“Ideally it’s the elimination of gender-based violence,” said Mount Baker student Cassidy Buck about the intentions behind the campaign. “But really it’s awareness and reduction to show people what’s going on in the world because here I find that we’re very sheltered and we don’t really know what’s going on and it’s about saying like, ‘hey we’re not okay with this going on and we need to change it.’”
This week, from Tuesday through Friday, they have a widespread plan of awareness including the Moose Hide Campaign put on by the Aboriginal Education Campaign as well as focusing on the White Ribbon Campaign.
“Students from my other class are going around talking to other classes and talking about the campaign and what we’re doing and we have white ribbons coming out and we’re showing movies next Thursday and Friday,” said Legrandeur.
The White Ribbon Campaign was started in Ontario in 1991 by a pro-feminist group of men in response to the École Polytechnique massacre. On December 6, 1989 Marc Lépine, claiming that he was “fighting feminism” shot 28 people and killed 14 women before taking his own life, blaming feminists for ruining his life in his suicide note. It is the deadliest mass shooting in Canada’s history.
“After that shooting there was a lot of negative feelings in the world about men so these men decided,’well on December 6 we’re going to wear these white ribbons to show that we’re okay with that,’” said Buck. “Not all men are going to hurt women.”
Legrandeur explained that, especially with what’s been happening in the news lately with celebrities, producers and news personalities being outed for sexual harassment against women, this sort of campaign is hugely powerful, as it teaches that recognizing that speech and actions can cause harm and that there are positive ways to approach it and open the discussion about it.