'Bystander Approach' Event Addresses Violence Against Women And Girls

Everyone has a role to play in tackling violence against women and girls – this was the message of the largest ever Bystander Approach conference held in Northern Ireland at Parliament Buildings on Tuesday 28 June.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, attended in person and Health Minister Robin Swann attended virtually. Head of Civil Service Jayne Brady also attended the conference which focussed on the Bystander Approach. This approach focusses on how everyone can address situations where women and girls are being subjected to abuse of any kind, to try to make a real and lasting difference in attitudes and behaviours.

Addressing the audience virtually, Health Minister Robin Swann said: "Tackling these issues is everyone's business and we can all play our part. I am committed to working with all of my Ministerial colleagues to challenge and address the societal attitudes and behaviours that contribute towards violence and abuse in our society. It is essential that we tackle the root causes. However we know that societal change will not happen overnight. Therefore events like today provide an important opportunity to come together to share learning and explore positive actions that we can take forward.

"I also hope it encourages as many people as possible to reach out and engage in the development of both the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy and the new Domestic and Sexual Abuse Strategy."

Speaking at the event, which was attended by approximately 300 people virtually and in person, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: "Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by gender-based violence and I welcome the development of a specific Strategy for tackling Violence Against Women and Girls. This Strategy will work alongside and be complementary to the Gender Equality Strategy, which my Department is developing on behalf of the Executive. The two Strategies together will aim to provide a robust basis for addressing misogyny and tackling structural violence against women and girls.
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"I look forward to continuing towards a more equal society, where no-one is limited in their choices, actions or options because of their gender."

Dr Jackson Katz, who pioneered the Bystander approach, was the keynote speaker at the conference. He told the audience that although it was vital for everyone to consider the impact of harmful attitudes towards women and girls, men have a particularly important role to play.

He explained: "I am thrilled to have this opportunity to meet with and present to a number of leaders in key sectors, including politics, education, and sports to share some of the lessons I and my colleagues have learned over the years in a multitude of settings.

"My overall message is that men, especially those in positions of societal and cultural influence, have a much more important role to play in preventing men's violence against women than we have shown to date. Women's leadership, in Northern Ireland and across the world, has been incredible and transformative, and will continue to be so. But we need a lot more from men, and today, I've been making that case and offering concrete conceptual and practical tools to make that happen."

Dr Jackson Katz, who is best known for his pioneering work with the NFL, is co-founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), one of the longest-running and most widely influential gender violence, sexual harassment and bullying prevention programs in the world.

He was also joined by Professor Louise Crowley whose successful Bystander Approach was first implemented at University College Cork, and is now being rolled out across other Higher Education institutions and piloted in schools across Ireland.

The conference was the final part of a two-day series of engagements which included events with key representatives from sports organisations and the education sector to look at their role in helping to promote a positive attitude towards women and girls.

The events were organised as part of the development of the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy which will identify actions to tackle violent and abusive behaviour directed at women and girls precisely because they are women and girls, including crimes and unwanted behaviour in the physical and online world.

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