By Belle Hatfield
People gathered at lunch on Thursday, Feb. 14 to pledge support for the One Billion Rising movement’s global day of action that focuses the spotlight on global violence against women and girls.
Speaking at the noontime gathering Major Peter Rowe, of the Salvation Army, plucked from the headlines, news that South African para-olympian Oscar Pistorius had been arrested just the day before, after his girlfriend was found shot to death in their South African home.
Violence against women, he said, is an epidemic that begins in the home and is perpetuated across generations.
Calling the statistic “heart wrenching” he quoted from a paper by Canadian researcher Marika Morris that suggests that in 1997, in family–related cases, the father was the perpetrator in 97 per cent of cases of sexual assault and 71 per cent of physical assaults in Canada.
“It is mind-numbing to think that so much of this goes unchecked. Our attitude of apathy and indifference is aiding this criminal activity,” he said.
He said violence against women is everyone’s concern because directly, or indirectly, it affects everyone in our society. When society assists women in moving out of situations of violence and abuse, Rowe said it effects powerful change.
“The benefits flow to their children, to their neighbourhood, the economy – to everyone,’ he said.
For two weeks leading up to the Feb. 14 closing ceremony, pledge sheets were distributed throughout Yarmouth, Shelburne and Digby counties.
Bernadette MacDonald, executive director of the Tri-County Women’s Centre, said thousands of names have been gathered to add to those pledged throughout the world.
One Billion Rising is a global call to action, based on an often-quoted statistic that suggests, over their lifetimes, women across the world have a one in three risk of being beaten or raped.
“With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls,” she said.
The global movement seeks to engage one billion people in expressing their commitment to stopping violence against women and girls.
The event included a stomp dance led by Marilyn Francis, of the Acadia First Nation Native Women's group.