The Cree campaign to end violence against women may have been conceived as a two-week effort last fall, but many Cree men are saying it should last 12 months of the year.

It all started when Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff met with the Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee, who challenged him to take on the task of some problems they saw involving women and children. As a result Iserhoff brought a motion to a Grand Council / Cree Regional Authority Special General Assembly on Health and Social Issues in November on the White Ribbon Campaign. The resolution noted that the world campaign to end violence against women and children officially runs November 26 until December 10, 2007, and those wearing the white ribbons make a personal pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.

“We took it a little further than just women because of what we are experiencing in all our communities,” Iserhoff said. “There are violent acts and we want all violence to stop.”

The White Ribbon Campaign is the largest effort in the world of men working to end violence against women. The WRC is a homegrown campaign started by Canadian men in 1991. Over 100,000 men responded in an initial campaign that lasted six weeks.

Wearing a white ribbon is a personal pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls. Wearing a white ribbon is a way of saying, “Our future has no violence against women.”

Iserhoff’s resolution was passed and directed the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) / Cree Regional Authority, Cree communities and organizations to promote this campaign throughout the Cree Nation. It goes further than the White Ribbon Campaign in saying “the Cree political, educational, health, social and economic leadership encourage participation in the campaign to end all forms of violence in both work and social environments throughout the Cree Nation.”

The campaign is a continuing one for the Crees, and many Cree men have taken this to heart. Apparently in Whapmagoustui men are still wearing their white ribbons and refusing to give them up. Even at a local band meeting in Mistissini January 23, people were still handing out information and white ribbons to band members at the meeting.

This year, the White Ribbon Campaign challenges you to do something, anything, to help realize a future that has no violence against women. You can start by wearing a White Ribbon and making the pledge to never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women. Explore your own attitude, behaviours and beliefs about gender-based violence. Make a change that starts within.

“Change is not going to come from the leadership, change is not going to come from heads of organizations, change has to come from individuals and from the home,” said Iserhoff.

The White Ribbon Campaign is a daunting task for many but as more join in many hands will lessen the workload.

Violence against women includes physical and sexual assault, sexual harassment, and emotional abuse. Not all violence leaves visible scars. Emotional violence includes regular subjection to demeaning jokes, domineering forms of behaviour, and sexual harassment.

Some forms of violence have a greater physical or emotional impact than others. But all forms of violence contribute to the very real fear and suffering that women in our society endure. The basic rights that most men enjoy – safety in their homes, ability to go out at night, a job free of harassment – are much harder to guarantee for women in much of the world.

Sometimes the fear is greatest in women’s own homes. A common myth is that most violence is committed by strangers. The fact is, when a woman faces violence it is usually by a man she knows – her husband, boyfriend, father, or employer.

Most individual acts of men’s violence are an attempt to assert control over others. Paradoxically, most violent acts by men are a sign of weakness, insecurity, and lack of self-esteem combined with a capacity for physical or verbal domination and feeling that they should be superior and in control.

Some violent incidents by men can be linked to substance abuse. Using alcohol or drugs may unleash feelings, fears, rage, and insecurities that some men cannot handle.

But drugs or alcohol don’t cause violence. Genes don’t cause violence. Ultimately, it is the attempt by some men to dominate women, or adults’ attempts to dominate children, or some men’s attempts to dominate other men or groups of men. Violence is a way of asserting power, privilege, and control. Violence is a way for compensating for feelings that you’re not a “real man.”

“Parents need to teach their children that violence is something that you never do. It’s not normal and we shouldn’t accept that type of behavior in our communities. We need to be active participants in preventing acts of violence from happening in our communities.”