WAVAW Joins Forces with Vancouver Community College to Address the Root Causes of Violence
By Alana Prochuk, Campus Anti-Violence Initiative Coordinator
“How about OURS—Organize and Unite to Realize Safety?”
“That’s pretty good. Or ECHO Against Gendered Violence? ECHO would stand for Everyone Can Help Organize.”
“Yeah, I like how both of those highlight collective responsibility. We definitely want students of all genders to feel like the issue is relevant to them. We could even do something like AGIT—All Genders In it Together? I guess you’d have to use only one of the I’s in the acronym, though.”
“I love how revolutionary that sounds. Ooh, what about VCC ROCS—VCC Reclaims Our Campus Safety.”
“VCC does rock, actually.”
Such was the flurry of brainstorming set off by the amazing news that Vancouver Community College would be partnering with WAVAW on an eighteen-month initiative against gender-based campus violence. My colleague Lisa and I typed up a long list of terms that captured our vision for the project—“mobilize,” “community,” “voices,” “power,” and other feel-good feminist bywords—and proceeded to mix-and-match them into acronyms to name the project. (A lot of them were ultra-awkward acronyms, there’s no denying it. We actually-seriously-for-real wrote down “ET TOI? Everybody Together To Own It.” Lisa is not to blame for that one.)
Lisa and I were getting ahead of ourselves, but only out of sheer enthusiasm. WAVAW’s project at VCC currently remains unnamed because everything about it—from its name to the policy changes and other concrete actions it will bring about—will be shaped by input from college students, faculty, and staff. In fact, one of our first steps will be to hold a buzz-generating contest to name the project: students will be invited to suggest names online or in person at campus events for the chance to win an amazing edible prize (a $100 gift certificate to VCC’s delish student-run restaurant, JJ’s). WAVAW will be attending upcoming campus events (the Career Fair on April 11th at the Broadway Campus, and the Mental Health Wellness Week at both campuses from May 6th-10th) to set up a display table, chat with students, and encourage them to suggest names or apply to volunteer with the project.
As Project Coordinators, Lisa and I are in charge of organizing the consultation process and making it as welcoming, relevant, and inspiring as possible to as many members of the VCC community as possible, but we won’t dictate priorities or outcomes. Through focus groups, informal dialogues, surveys, a diverse campus taskforce, and a range of creative feedback channels we can’t even imagine yet (interactive theatre? graffiti art? postcards? a Facebook group?), the VCC community will let us know how we should go about combatting gender-based violence.
WAVAW has a solid basis for collaborating with VCC: a shared commitment to creating deep and lasting change to make women’s lives safer. It isn’t every day that a post-secondary institution “recognizes an urgency to address the issue of violence against women on Canadian campuses and the important role that our organization can play in raising awareness, influencing public policy and examining the root causes of violence against women”—as one VCC administrator wrote in a rather gush-worthy letter confirming the College’s enthusiasm about working with WAVAW!
The strength of WAVAW’s partnership with VCC will help us accomplish some ambitious goals in a short time. From now until September 2014, WAVAW will work with a campus taskforce to gather information about VCC’s current policies and services and lead an inclusive consultation process to identify strategies for preventing gender-based violence on campus or improving supports for survivors. Ultimately, the taskforce will develop a concrete action plan and begin to implement it. Before officially wrapping up the project in September 2014, VCC and WAVAW will strategize to make sure that our work against gender-based violence makes a long-term contribution to campus life. And throughout the process, we’ll be watching with interest as similar projects funded by Status of Women Canada unfold at more than 20 different Canadian post-secondary institutions (and of course, trading stories and tips with our fellow project coordinators across the country).
This is a movement—and it needs champions of all kinds. If you study or work at VCC and want to know more about WAVAW’s anti-violence work on campus, please email us at Alana@wavaw.ca or Lisa@wavaw.ca, or phone the WAVAW office line at 604-255-6228. We welcome everyone at VCC to get involved. In fact, we need everyone to get involved if we are going to make a serious dent in gender-based violence and the culture that perpetuates it. Which, obviously, we are.
I feel another inspiring acronym coming on…
*Speaking of inspiring, check out the rad project logo created by WAVAW’s talented graphic design volunteer, Madison Reid! The icon is inspired by some of the values that will shape the project: collaboration, inclusivity, and participation of all genders.