Message from Naheed Bardai, Head, Middle Division
He killed 14 engineering students, all women. This tragic incident wasn’t a coincidence, nor were the women just simply in the way. The killer was motivated by his hate for women doing what they were doing: studying to become engineers. Twenty-eight years later, we’re still having conversations about violence against women and how many cultural assumptions about women still exist in our society that enable systemic violence to exist against them.
We had the opportunity to address this topic with the boys at Wednesday’s assembly. Please go here to see a 1989 CBC clip of the Montreal massacre shown to the boys.
Our boys have been doing tremendous work in supporting Nellie’s, a shelter for women and children in Toronto. Each form has “adopted” Nellie’s. Women are there because men have abused them. What does it mean to be a boys’ school giving a gift to a woman in a shelter who’s there because of the acts of a man? What responsibilities rest on the shoulders of our boys, the future men of society? How do our boys begin to understand the systemic nature of violence against women, and what can they begin to do about it? If in 10 years time, shelters like Nellie’s still need to exist, then we haven’t done enough as a community and society.
At the age of 11 and 12, boys are already being socialized with regards to their gender identities and what it means to be a boy and a man. Many of the gender constructs associated with traditional masculinity have a significant impact on gender equality. It’s important that we engage our boys around these conversations at an early age.
During assembly, we spoke about the #MeToo movement and some of the powerful men behind the abuses. We spoke about the data around violence towards girls and women in Canada, including the number of women and children who need to access shelters like Nellie’s. I shared a video about the 2017 Time Magazine “Person of the Year” recipients: “The Silence Breakers.” Our assembly ended with some reflections on what our boys can do to begin making a real and systemic difference towards the issue of violence against women. Here are some of our thoughts:
- Learn more about violence against girls and women.
- Advocate for girls who are being harassed. Don’t turn a blind eye or be a bystander.
- For the Year 7 students, think of your experience at the dance last week. How did you treat the girls around you? How did your friends treat the girls who were present? Did you or any of your friends do something they know that could be considered harassment?
- Stop your friends from making “jokes” about girls.
- What message are you sending when you post something to social media?
If you have the opportunity, please engage in a conversation with your boy about this very important topic that impacts us all.
On another note, as we engage in the festive season and look forward to 2018, it’s important to take time and appreciate all the strength and diversity that our UCC community brings. We would like to find a way to share more of that richness with each other and the boys. If you’re part of a community that has traditions, practices or celebrations that you would like to share with the boys at the Prep, I invite you to contact me. We’d be happy to facilitate sharing in each other’s cultures.