Taking Action Against Gender-Based Violence: A Guide for Changemakers

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until December 10, Human Rights Day.

During these 16 days, our communities work towards understanding the experiences of gender-based violence in our communities, promoting diverse approaches to creating a violence-free world, and advocating for change. Learn how together, we can raise awareness, promote attitude change, and enable individuals and organizations to begin positive actions towards ending violence against women and girls (cis, trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender-diverse people) in their communities.


One in two women experience physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, mostly from an intimate partner.

Violence against women and girls (cis, trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender-diverse people) is one of the most pervasive human rights violations. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, evidence has shown that all types of gender-based violence (GBV) – particularly domestic violence – have escalated.

  • GBV is a human rights violation. Everyone has the right to live free from violence and abuse.
  • GBV intersects with other forms of oppression. Gender-based violence disproportionately impacts Indigenous people, LGBTQ2S+ people and those living with disabilities.
  • GBV has long-term, intergenerational effects on children who witness abuse.

On December 6, 1989, a lone gunman shot and killed fourteen women at the École Polytechnique in Montréal after separating the students by gender while yelling “I hate feminists.” Two years later, the Canadian government established the National Day of Remembrance & Action on Violence against Women on the anniversary of this massacre.

This year on December 6, Waterloo Region will gather in the Vogelsang Green at noon to remember these fourteen women, and the legacy left behind as women and girls (cis, trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender-diverse people) in our region continue to experience the life-altering consequences of misogyny and gender-based violence.

The 16 Days of Activism highlight the action needed to prevent and eliminate this violence, and December 6 serves as a call to action that encourages everyone to take responsibility for ending GBV. We will come together at Vogelsang Green in Kitchener to show our solidarity with survivors of gender-based violence and to remember those we have lost.

Keep reading on to discover how GBV impacts communities near and far, how it can be addressed, and how to get involved in taking action.



Technology has done incredible things for humanity, but it can be used to amplify and enable hate speech and violence. Tech-facilitated violence (TFV) poses significant threats to the physical and psychological well-being of women and girls (cis, trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender-diverse people) around the world. The YWCA Canada ran a national survey of online hate speech as experienced by women and girls (cis, trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender-diverse people) aged 16-30.

  • The most common forms of online hate experienced are sexist/misogynistic (42%), based on body type or physical characteristics (38%), racist (31%), or homophobic (26%)
  • 58% of respondents did not see a point in seeking support/thought it would not make a difference
  • Likeliest to have experienced online hate speech includes those who have a disability (70%), Indigenous peoples (59%), 2SLGBTGI+ (59%), and Black people (53%)

There is no online world and offline world – there is one world. TFV can intensify and create new ways for gender-based violence to take shape. TFV destabilizes ones’ sense of safety considering that online violence may be carried out by peers, friends, or even romantic partners.


The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG2S) called for the federal, provincial, territorial, municipal, and Indigenous governments, in partnership with Indigenous people, to develop and implement a plan that responds to the Calls for Justice. These 231 Calls for Justice are legal imperatives dictated to end a genocide.

Through the Final Report of the National Inquiry into MMIWG2S, the challenges for Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people when facing ongoing racism and sexism in various forms are made quite apparent. The government’s 2021 National Action Plan in response to the National Inquiry outlines 30 goals that align with the Calls for Justice, however many of these have seen little progress in the 12+ months since the Plan’s release, while many of the Calls for Justice are completely unaddressed in the Plan. Meanwhile, violence against Indigenous women (cis, trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender-diverse people) only continues.

Research from 2022 shows Indigenous Indigenous women (cis, trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender-diverse people) are more likely to experience physical assault, sexual assault, and online violence than those identifying as white.

  • 56% of Indigenous women have experienced physical assault while 46% have experienced sexual assault.
  • Those identifying as Indigenous/Racialized are 35% more likely than those identifying as white to experience online hate constantly or very frequently.


The research done by Project Willow chronicles the layered experiences of GBV encountered by women (cis, trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender-diverse people) experiencing homelessness in our community over the past three years and makes recommendations for enhancement to the emergency services and justice systems in Waterloo Region. They reported that 92% of participants experience gender-based violence at least twice a week, with the following types of violence being experienced the most:

  • Verbal violence – 96%
  • Emotional/mental violence – 79%
  • Financial violence – 63%

For those living with homelessness, co-ed shelters, spaces where they are sharing a room with multiple other strangers, or masculinized spaces rooted in aggression/other toxic masculinity and dominated by men, can feel unsafe. 65% of participants avoided accessing the services and supports they needed (food, clothing, healthcare, supervised consumption services, etc.) because they were concerned about encountering an abuser or experiencing violence.


Whether it be big or small, individuals and communities can make a real difference in helping create a safe and equitable Waterloo Region where everyone’s human rights are upheld. There are several approaches which add up to creating a safer community for women and girls (cis, trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender-diverse people).

Let’s start with the small ways we can help:

  1. Learn and encourage others to learn about consent.
  2. Learn the common signs of abuse and how to safely help. Explore the signs from the UN, or take an even bigger step by registering for Network of Neighbours training.
  3. Empower youth to advocate for their human rights. Check out + share
  4. Challenge your peers – if you see something that is not okay, say IT’S NOT OKAY.
  5. Dismantle cultures of victim blaming. Nobody is asking for it and nobody deserves violence. Period.
  6. Support survivors of violence, and actively choose to believe and listen to their story.
  7. Support programs + services that address violence in your community.
  8. Reject harmful gender-norms and toxic masculinity.

Taking action involving consent education, ending victim blaming, promoting equity – these are just some of the small steps we can make towards a greater impact in ending violence against women and girls (cis, trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary and gender-diverse people).

It’s also incredibly important to focus on resources and work that not only address the impacts of gender-based violence, but contribute towards preventing it. This includes centering the needs, experiences and wisdom of survivors in our efforts to take action against hate, abuse and harassment and its far-reaching impact on their safety, well-being and freedom.

  • Donate to your YWCA to help women find supportive housing, get crisis support, and leave a life of homelessness and/or violence.
  • The Feminist Shift invites the community to take on gender-based violence in Waterloo Region by engaging in thoughtful conversations, challenging engrained local issues with other feminist organizations and participating in knowledge sharing and training opportunities.
  • Addressing root causes of violence and recognizing the signs of domestic violence can literally save lives. You can register for the Network of Neighbours Intervention training to gain skills to help a neighbour experiencing violence and learn to become a better ally to survivors.
  • The YWCA Canada’s National Emergency Survivor Support Fund removes one of the biggest barriers preventing survivors from leaving abuse: money. You can donate to the fund right now, or spread the word with their FREE social media toolkit!
  • Educate yourself on Cultural Competency and how it impacts the way our services meet the immediate needs of an Indigenous person after a traumatic event
  • Learn about the REDress project, a response to more than 1000 MMIWG2S
  • Read and share: Is Our Relationship Healthy? A brochure produced in consultation with girls and young women across the country, with content and language that are reflective of how youth are seeing and experiencing dating and relationships today.
  • Read and share: Rights. Reports. Supports: A guide on sexual image based abuse.

But most importantly, we need action from governing bodies, lawmakers and law enforcement to see real change.


Systems-level changes are required to address and end this type of violence. Putting the responsibility on individual survivors to keep themselves safe is a form of victim-blaming and insufficient.

More can be done by our government to combat gender-based violence. And that means beyond just our 16 Days of Activism. As advocates, we must continue to fight for amendments to Canadian legislation and regulatory frameworks for further protections against various forms of gender-based violence.

We need voices to demand more from lawmakers, law enforcement, and other organizations.

Have any of these facts or action items surprised you? Share this blog post with other passionate community members and aspiring changemakers to amplify our impact.


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