Report from the Zonta Club of Ottawa, Ontario

The 16 Days of Activism for 2017 is now completed and what a group of days the Zonta Club of Ottawa experienced! Planning began months before, as our club looked for ways we could be involved.  Cindy O’Neil compiled over two dozen events being held in Ottawa for Zontians to attend.

Orange Scarves: Our November meeting, held on the 23rd November saw a beehive of activity.  Cindy O’Neil purchased a bolt of orange fleece and Lynda Pearson and Shirley Mack brought their cutting equipment.  At the end of the evening, we had a dozen orange scarves ready for distribution! Leslie Lawson had purchased a dozen orange taper candles to be used at the opening ceremonies.  Leslie also presented a large 4’X6’ Zonta Club of Ottawa, Ontario, banner for us to use.  We also reviewed a calendar of Ottawa events from which members could choose those events that mean the most to them.

November 25-December 10: Prem Grainger posted a pertinent message each day on our Facebook page. Several were shared on individual Facebook pages.

Pertinent Events:

November 25 Day One! A group of Zontians, all wearing their orange scarves, attended the opening ceremony held at Minto Park. Then over 150 men and women walked slowly with candles lit to the Ottawa City Hall.  Mayor Jim Watson, signed a proclamation to start the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. and several federal, provincial and city elected officials were on hand. The event was sponsored in part by Grandmothers Advocacy Group and the Ottawa Rape Centre .  Near the Ottawa City Hall, we drove around the building and witnessed the orange and purple lights on the “Old City Hall Building,”- a wonderful sight to see.

November 28, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF): A group of Zontians attended a panel presentation featuring a psychologist from Haiti,

Dr. Stéphanie Loiseau, MSF Humanitarian Affairs Advisor, Jason Nickerson, and MSF Communications Officer Idriss Lomba.  In addition, the Ottawa Public Library featured the work of photographer Benedicte Kurzen and focused on Doctors Without Borders’ response to sexual and gender-based violence against young people in Haiti.  Doctors Without Borders opened the Pran Men’m clinic (Creole for ‘take my hand’) in Port-au-Prince that specializes in providing medical and psychological care to survivors of Sexual and Gender-based Violence. The vast majority of the more than 1,300 survivors of sexual violence who have been treated in the clinic are younger than 25 years, and more than half are minors.

December 6, At Minto Park: On 6th December 1989, 14 young students at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal were murdered. They were murdered because they were women. Each year, a vigil commemorating the victims of the Montreal Massacre is held in Ottawa at the women’s Monument in Minto Park. In addition, the community pays tribute to lives taken by violence against women and gender-based violence in our community since the previous year. Several Zontians attended and as we stood together we too paid tribute and helped to raise awareness of the phenomenon of gender-based violence in our society, including the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women and youth. This was an opportunity to acknowledge the courage and strength of survivors, and to reflect on how we can eliminate violence against women and gender-based violence in all forms.

December 10, Day 16 and Human Rights Day

Prime Minister  Justin Trudeau  issued the following statement on Human Rights Day:

“Seventy years ago, delegates from around the world came together to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares everyone is ‘born free and equal in dignity and rights.’ We take this occasion to celebrate our very own John Humphrey, who helped draft this revolutionary document, and to recommit ourselves to a more just and equal world.”  Read the entire statement at Zontians attended the Racially Visible Action Committee (RVAC) in partnership with the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s  National Capital Region  Equity Committee’s Human Rights Day celebration. Held at the PSAC Building, the event was presented in the two officials languages of Canada, French and English.

Zontians also attended a tea sponsored by the Ottawa Council of Women in honour of Human Rights Day. The guest speaker was Natalie Des Rosiers, MPP, Ottawa Vanier. She spoke on “The Role of Human Rights Advocacy in Supporting Women’s Equality.”

In addition to all of this, some Zontians put a Zonta sign “Add your Voice for Gender Equality” on their windows or doors for the sixteen days.

Conclusion: the Zonta Club of Ottawa, Ontario is proud to have taken action during the 16 Days of Activism following the directive of Zonta International, “During the 16 Days of Activism, 25 November-10 December, all Zonta clubs and districts are encouraged to take part in the Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women campaign and to take local, national and international actions to influence the making and implementation of laws, as well as changing gender-based attitudes and behaviors to end violence against women.”