By Nancy Smith, Executive Director, Interval House of Hamilton, February 4, 2021
The Hamilton Spectator
February is Hamilton’s Be More Than a Bystander (BMTAB) month — raising awareness on gender-based violence, impact on women and girls and the necessity of male engagement.
In recognition, the signature Hamilton sign in front of city hall will be lit in the MentorAction Be More Than A Bystander colours of purple and grey during the week of February 18 to 23, and several Be More Than A Bystander outdoor billboards will be up throughout the month at key intersections in the city.
Be More Than a Bystander is a program initiative of Interval House of Hamilton’s MentorAction program featuring male leaders who stand up and speak out in ending gender-based violence. MentorAction members challenge existing societal norms that perpetuate gender-based violence and seek to create a community that is safe and violence-free. MentorAction was created in 2013, and with the inclusion of the Be More Than A Bystander program has created a platform for providing education, mentorship, and community participation.
MentorAction’s Be More Than A Bystander program engages male leaders in raising awareness and provides education to youth and adult males to address gender-based violence through engaging in safe prevention strategies. In 2016, Interval House of Hamilton purchased the rights to Be More Than A Bystander from EVA BC and brought the program to Hamilton. Since then, IHOH MentorAction has partnered with the Hamilton Bulldogs, McMaster University Athletics and McMaster University Security Services, The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, FORGE FC and as of Feb. 1, 2021, Sports Hamilton, the official sport council for the City of Hamilton and a registered not-for-project organization, to spread the message of ending gender-based violence. Through public service announcements, billboards, school programs, and sports programs we are re-educating our communities and increasing awareness of everyone’s responsibility to end gender-based violence.
It is important to recognize sports as a cultural influencer to end gender-based violence by providing practical tools and discussing healthy masculinity with youth and men. Elite athletes, players and coaches play a critical role in mentoring youth. Engaging boys at an early age and building healthy masculinity messaging into athletics aligns with gender-based violence prevention strategies within community-wide initiatives. Engaging organized sports teams to mentor youth provides a platform to challenge patriarchy and creates a venue for transformational conversations between athletes and youth that challenge harmful and rigid gender roles and expectations.
As the global pandemic continues its deadly course across the world with catastrophic loss of life and income, we must remember that for many women, with or without children, “staying home to stay safe” remains an unsafe situation. In each country as communities have gone into lockdown mode, the rate of intimate partner violence has increased. The evidence is overwhelming that in times of societal crisis, economic downturn, etc., the rate of domestic violence and child abuse climbs. Added to this are the stressors placed on women as they are (usually) the primary caregivers and are very often working in the sectors — often in low paying occupations — deemed as essential workers.
During this global pandemic with its accompanying pandemic of violence against women, there is a critical need and urgency for all Hamiltonians to Be More Than A Bystander to end the pandemic of gender-based violence, and for male allies to stand with our MentorAction committee of male leaders. For male allies who wish to lend their support and assistance, please consider becoming a “Steel City Ally.” A Steel City Ally can be anyone. It is an individual’s pledge, promise, oath — whatever word you want to describe the commitment you are making to yourself to be a voice in the fight to end gender-based violence and promote violence-free living.
There is neither a time commitment, nor a financial obligation. By becoming a Steel City Ally, you share the vision of a safer community and have made the promise to end gender-based violence. Be More Than A Bystander to end gender-based violence. For further information please visit mentoraction.org.