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Community Unites To Build A Better Tomorrow With “Take Back the Night”

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It can sometimes feel disheartening to hear what’s happening worldwide. When it comes to politics, things are more divisive than ever. On November 24, Winnipeggers stood together to make a difference, marching for the Take Back the Night (TBTN) movement. 

The first ever Take Back The Night event was held in Philadelphia in 1975 after Susan Alexander Speeth was stabbed while walking home. These events have continued as a worldwide effort to unite against sexual assault and gender-based violence. Winnipeg has been holding rallies since the 70s. Now 50 years later, 2022’s theme was “marching from the 70s into Tomorrow,” honouring the activists who came before and continue to work towards safety. 

Gender-based violence is the type of abuse women, girls, Two Spirit, trans, and non-binary people are at the highest risk of experiencing. According to canadianwomen.org, in Canada, more than 4 in 10 women have experienced some form of intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetimes. Raising awareness of gender-based violence is incredibly important, but movements like “Take Back the Night” are moments to build a stronger community to be a united voice against all injustices. With the overturn of Roe V. Wade in the United States and continued conversations about the privatization of healthcare in Canada, standing united is more important than ever. For one of the organizers, Jennifer Chen, who spoke at last year’s event and was the MC for this year’s, as a person who came from a country without freedom of expression, speaking out has tremendous power. 

“When I came to Canada, I first chose not to confront any stereotypes and just swallow them. I felt so hurt inside. Staying quiet means things will not change; they will continue. Only by coming together and sharing our stories can we make a change. That’s what I really believe.”

Charlotte Cameron, another organizer, has been attending TBTN Winnipeg since she was a child. Inspired at that time, she’s highly aware of how social movements and activism don’t happen overnight. It takes tremendous effort, blood, sweat, tears, and being ever-vigilant to ensure a better tomorrow. 

“I remember thinking that power, that energy, there’s no way there will be violence now, right? I was five, six years old, of course, I thought that. But it didn’t fix everything, as if that could happen. Over the years, I found myself questioning why do we keep doing this and what is the purpose of coming together. I think acknowledging that this is something that has been going on for a long time, the march is a fixed time where people stand up and say I can’t believe this is something we still have to protest this. Are you serious?”

Although it may sometimes feel bleak, Cameron says these efforts are making a difference, raising awareness and bringing even more together to fight for the future. It empowers those in your community and leads to legislative changes. Still, we must continue to fight and push forward, as it can easily be pulled away like a rug underneath our feet. 

Two speakers at the event shared their experiences from the 70s, Isabelle Daniels of Velma’s House and Asma Ahmad of Healthy Muslim Families. Although their backgrounds are very different, the commonalities between their experiences are essential to the conversation, says Cameron. 

Velma’s House is a safe space for women experiencing violence, exploitation, or homelessness. Daniels, the Program Coordinator, was in advocate groups for many years, fighting for a space like Velma’s House. Both of her sisters died due to violence.

For the Thursday event, it was very promising for organizers to see the next generation get involved. 

“It’s hopeful,” says Chen, “We saw so many young people, so many university students who came out, matching that theme Marching Into Tomorrow.”

It takes tremendous time and effort as volunteers to make this event possible says Chen, but they’re going to keep doing it again and again and again.  

“We’re all volunteers who plan this event, and it’s a lot of work. You feel a lot of energy when you see a successful event and the many people who came out to share their stories and be there to show their support for this movement. You feel, let’s do it next year, let’s do it the year after that, let’s do it every year.”

Cameron says activism isn’t a straight line for those first learning about movements or wanting to get more involved in social change. It’s about learning what’s wrong and, when you notice it trying to become a part of the change. Reach out to local organizations and volunteer events, know who your neighbours and community are, and stand arm in arm and speak out against injustices.

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U Multicultural.

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