The messages hang from clotheslines throughout the community – scrawled on T-shirts and bedsheets that have been soaked by rainstorms and are barely hanging on by a clothespin. While the ink might run and the garments might blow away, we must not allow the messages to be lost.
The Clothesline Project is one of a few initiatives that have been taking place locally the past two weeks as part of the United Nations’ 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.
Those 16 days incorporated, in Canada, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, marking 26 years since the murders of 14 women at École Polytechnique de Montréal. One of the most important parts of remembrance, in this case, is doing what we can to ensure it does not happen again. As a society, however, we fail again and again to protect women, whether on northern B.C.’s Highway of Tears, or Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, or even in Nanaimo. According to the Vancouver Island University Faculty Association’s Status of Women committee, 3,500 women on the mid-Island seek help dealing with physical, sexual and emotional abuse and violence. If it isn’t a shocking number, it should be.
We can do more to help the victims, but better still, we must change attitudes. Humans will argue and we will be faced with problems, and sometimes they’re hard, but what problems, really, do we face in our little day-to-day lives in Nanaimo that we cannot resolve peacefully?
The messages on the clotheslines give voice to the issue of violence against women. Organizers say it’s important that women do not suffer in silence. It is important. There are so many who will help them if they will only speak up, and who will stand by them if they speak out.
We don’t know how to put an end, completely, to gender violence, but we know how to get started. On clotheslines around the city, the answers are blowin’ in the wind.