Written by Matt Jalink
Violence against women was this year’s focus for international development week, and is highlighted in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (#5). In response to this theme, human rights activist, journalist, and award winning author Sally Armstrong came to Dalhousie University to talk about women as agents of change. Sally drew upon her vast experience of covering stories about women and girls in conflict zones from across the globe. The three-time Amnesty International award winner gave insightful and inspiring examples of women empowering themselves to defy societal and gender norms creating change and opportunity for themselves.
Sally shared the story of young women in Kenya who filed a law suit against their government for failing to protect them from sexual assault. Despite facing strong opposition, the young women won and catalyzed change for women and girls all across their country. In order to translate this courtroom victory into practice, the Nairobi police have mandatory training on sexual assault. For three years, the Vancouver police department worked with the Nairobi police to develop the training program and successfully trained the team in Kenya. By speaking out and standing up for themselves, these young Kenyan women have provided themselves and future generations protection from sexual assault and gender violence.
Sally’s message was filled with optimism, inspiration, and hope. Great strides are being made in eliminating violence against women and we need to continue to work towards building a safer, equitable future.