Tired of organizing and attending anti-violence events where the participants are already involved in anti-violence work a small grass-roots group of women survivors decided to “take it to them” in 2000. The objective: Remember by name all the women who had died by violence (not their murderers as is so often named by the media and remembered by the public); Provide information to anyone who was interested, Do it on one day, and as Cheaply as possible. In order to remain true to our focus of remembering women who had not survived, the Memorial is non-confrontational and non-blaming. The message is: women are dying and it needs to stop.
The 1st event proved such a success that it has grown to numerous cities and towns across Canada.
It works on many levels-
- Remembering women victims by printing their names we remember the struggle they ultimately lost. They will not be forgotten
- Collecting women’s shoes allows the event to be mentioned and promoted year-round.
- Being non-confrontational has allowed posters requesting shoes to be placed in medical offices, real estate offices etc. Anywhere, there is one person working, who believes in the cause. It allows women who want to do something but cannot for numerous reasons help by donating a pair of shoes.
- Plus we have shoes to forward on to those women not as fortunate as us.
- The Memorial has attracted media attention over the years, as it is a very visual display.
- The Memorial has acted very effectively to have pedestrians pause, asking what are the shoes for? It allows us to provide written material and in some cases engage them in a discussion about violence against women.
- It provides us with an opportunity to provide information and talk with passerbyers who stop and want to know what it is all about. Over the years we have noticed a change in the knowledge and attitudes of those walking by. In the 1st years people were astounded not just by the numbers, but how so many continue to be killed and the lack of knowledge of the issue and what Dec. 6 means. Now, over the last few years, we have found that more men are stopping and asking what they can do. The information we provide is geared to what individuals, men and women can do to end the violence. We liken our campaign to Mothers Against Drunk Driving in that we want to make violence against women socially unacceptable.
To remember those who have died by violence it was decided to print their names and the dates of their death on a memorial wall, which people could go to and read. Over the years we have found a number of individuals looking for family and friends names on our “Boards”; all of who have commented that this is a wonderful way to remember them. One woman, who’s mother was remembered was so moved that she started her own Dec. 6 Shoe Memorial in Kamloops, B.C.
Any date would do as long as it holds some significance to the purpose. We chose Dec. 6, which is Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action for women who have died by violence and which usually generates media attention. Months earlier the word goes out asking for women’s shoes, new and used. We want the donor to think about the violence that goes on each time she looks into her closet or sees one of our posters. Donating shoes has proved an excellent way to do “something” against the violence.
The Vancouver Public Art Gallery Stairs were chosen as the place to bring the memorial to the public in good weather or bad (it only snowed once). The Art Gallery considers the memorial to be an excellent example of “a People’s Art Installation” and has supported the event. The location provides excellent foot traffic as commuters arrive and leave from work and the stairs an excellent stage for the shoes.
A brief “memorial service” service with speakers was arranged to give focus to the event. A candlelight vigil was held in the evening of the first year but due to rain and wind this was eliminated after that. Our audience wanted to leave immediately after work.
The media suggested that our Service be moved to the lunch hour. This proved to be an excellent suggestion. The event was meant for what we call the “unconverted” and those who wanted to remember, and not for those already stridently working in the field.
During our 1st Shoe Memorial, a dad was overheard explaining to his very young daughter what the memorial was about and how the violence had to end to make a better world for her, as he held her hand. It was a success beyond our greatest hopes. Each year we provide written information to over 1000 pedestrians who take it away to read. Last year we handed information or talked to over 800 men about what they could do to help end the violence. The Dec. 6 Shoe Memorial has spread to at least 2 other communities as an annual event and as one community organizer states; it works “why are not others doing the same?
It is simple, cheap, and easy to organize and it works so why aren’t you doing one.