Every Thursday morning, Rev. Anne Hoganson chooses something black to wear. She does so not as a fashion statement, but to join people around the world calling for an end to violence against women. The advocacy campaign is simply called Thursdays in Black, but its history and meaning run deep.
“[Gender-based violence] is still such a taboo subject,” says Hoganson, minister of Halifax’s St. Paul’s United Church Spryfield. “We need to talk about it and break the barrier of silence.”
The World Council of Churches (WCC) started Thursdays in Black in the 1980s to “challenge attitudes that cause rape and violence.” According to Fulato Moyo, who spearheads the campaign, black was chosen “as a colour of resistance and resilience.” The inspiration to wear it on Thursdays came from Argentina’s Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of women who, in 1977, began taking a stand against political violence by marching every Thursday outside the presidential palace in Buenos Aires.
While individuals around the world have observed Thursdays in Black for decades, the WCC decided to revive it in 2013 during its 10th Assembly. At the time, Moyo described the campaign as a “united global expression of the desire for safe communities where we can all walk safely without fear of being raped, shot at, beaten up, verbally abused and discriminated against due to one’s gender or sexual orientation.”
To help amplify their message, participants now share photos with the hashtag #ThursdaysInBlack on social media sites. In solidarity, The United Church of Canada’s national office joined the effort more than a year ago. Until her contract ended in July, program co-ordinator Carmen Ramirez helped organize staff members for a weekly photo, which she shared on Facebook along with links to news stories that illustrate the problem.
The statistics are sobering. According to the United Nations, one in three women around the world experience sexual or physical violence. Fewer than 40 percent of victims seek help.
“[Violence against women] is not just here — it’s worldwide,” said Ramirez. “It’s happening all the time, and it’s happening way too often.”
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