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By Lana Payne, Unifor national president

November 25 starts a global campaign of 16 Days of Activism for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This year’s theme is Unite: Activism to End Violence Against Women. In the spirit of unity, Unifor is raising awareness among the membership about the Signal for Help, which began in 2020 as a way for women to silently show they need help and want someone to safely check in with them.

Over the next 16 days, we ask you to commit this signal to memory and teach it to 16 other people. This small action can lead to more women feeling comfortable asking for help, and help us all learn what resources are available to support women in unsafe situations.

Across Canada on December 6, 2022 we mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. It has now been 33 years since the tragic murders of 14 young women at L’Université de Montréal’s École Polytechnique. These women lost their bright lives and futures in the span of 20 minutes at the hand of someone who openly declared his misogyny. We also mourn Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and all who have lost their lives to femicide and violence.

This year we will return to in-person vigils and memorials to remember the women and girls we have lost and recommit ourselves to the fight to end gender-based violence.

Everyone, regardless of sex or gender, is called to speak up and speak out in a meaningful way against violence. Allyship is essential. Men must equally take a role alongside women in the labour movement to stop harassment when they see it and build safe workplaces and communities for all.

As a union, we make workplaces safe through collective bargaining language, and we must continue to push for better. One of the concrete ways we can take action at the bargaining table is to bargain new Women’s Advocates. Women’s Advocates are one of the support systems Unifor has pioneered to ensure there is someone to turn to at work when home is not safe.

The pandemic and ongoing health crises have only intensified the impacts of violence against women and girls.

  • 45% of women reported that they or a woman they know has experienced a form of violence.
  • 7 in 10 women said they think that verbal or physical abuse by a partner has become more common.
  • 6 in 10 felt that sexual harassment in public spaces has worsened.
  • Globally, 1 in 3 women experience violence with the most recent global estimates showing that, on average, a woman or girl is killed by someone in her own family every 11 minutes.

As we witness a rise in anti-rights movements, including anti-feminists, we must speak up and speak out against the dangerous rhetoric that is impacting our lives.

As Unifor members and leaders, we heed the call to increase our activism to ensure feminist voices are at every table influencing policy decisions that impact our lives.

Together we will continue to push for safe workplaces and homes for all women and girls.

Learn more at unifor.org/women and canadianwomen.org/signal-for-help.

Read this statement on our website here

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