The White Ribbon campaign in New Zealand is a meld of the White Ribbon Day movement in Canada and the United Nations international day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, which is celebrated on 25 November each year.
The campaign which now takes place during the whole month of November is driven by a campaign team and community groups in towns and cities throughout New Zealand. White Ribbon events and activities are increasingly supported by businesses, cultural groups, sporting teams, local government, and a wide range of community and government agencies.
The first White Ribbon Campaign was launched by a group of men in Canada after the brutal mass shooting of 14 female students at the University of Montreal. In Canada the campaign runs from 25 November (the International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women) until December 6, Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Other countries support 16 Days of Action from 25 November until 10 December but campaigns can occur at any time of the year.
The United Nations officially recognised 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. White Ribbon becomes officially recognised as a symbol of hope for a world where women and girls can live free from the fear of violence. Wearing the ribbon challenges the acceptability of violence by getting men involved, helping women to break the silence, and encouraging everyone to come together to build a better world for all.
UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) introduced White Ribbon Day to New Zealand. Volunteers made and distributed 15,000 ribbons via women’s organisations and human rights organisations.
The Families Commission embraced White Ribbon Day as part of its work to raise awareness of family violence and encourage social change. The Commission joined Women’s Refuge, National Network of Stopping Violence Services, Amnesty International, Human Rights Commission, YWCA, YMCA, Save the Children and Relationship Services in promoting the campaign. The Commission provided much of the funding and project management for the campaign. In 2006, 200,000 ribbons were distributed and double that in 2007.
The funding base expanded, with contributions from Ministry of Health, Police, ACC, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Development. In 2008, one in 10 New Zealanders wore a white ribbon with over 500,000 distributed around the country.
During 2009 the first White Ribbon Ambassador (Ruben Wiki) was appointed to provide leadership and use his public profile and support networks to spread the White Ribbon message. Other key projects were introduced such as the White Ribbon Ride where tough looking men (Patriots made up of current and former members of the armed services) delivered messages of love and respect to some 40 communities. We also introduced Facebook and this website.
Awareness and participation in the White Ribbon campaign continued to grow. During 2010 over 510,000 white ribbons were distributed throughout New Zealand. A number of key events were held including a cross-party MP White Ribbon Breakfast in Parliament, a White Ribbon Breakers Game in Auckland as well as 144 known community activities throughout the country. The White Ribbon Ride rode through 40 North Island centres and connected with men and their communities to share stories and inspire change.
The campaign introduced the White Ribbon Ride to the South Island and now reaches over 80 communities on its trip throughout New Zealand. NZ Football came on board with White Ribbon the cause associated with the All Whites – and they even made their own poster. The ambassador project continued to grow reaching 40 ambassadors who now speak throughout the country inspiring communities. The Giant White Ribbon was introduced linking communities and their messages to end violence and the Newspaper Pledge saw full page adverts in The Press, The Dominion Post and the NZ Herald. The website was further updated and the White Ribbon Newsletter was introduced.
The year has seen continued growth with the introduction of the White Ribbon Cup by Football NZ while the campaign team have introduced merchandise, fundraising and sponsorship as the campaign moves towards full funding by 2015. We will also introduce new messaging; new campaign images and the new month long campaign will focus on non-physical violence.