Where did the WR campaign start?
In 1991, a handful of men in Canada decided they had a responsibility to urge men to speak out about violence against women. Wearing a white ribbon would be a symbol of men's opposition to violence against women. With only six weeks of preparation, 100,000 men across Canada wore a white ribbon, while many others were drawn into discussion and debate.
What forms of violence against women (VAW) concern you?
In Switzerland, the most widespread problems are physical violence against spouses and girlfriends (from hitting right up to murder) and sexual violence (usually committed by a boyfriend, husband, trusted adult, or family member.) There is also emotional abuse -- sexual harassment at work or on the street, stalking, jokes that demean women, and controlling behavior. In some other countries violence occurs in the form of genital mutilation of girls and trafficking of girls and young women into prostitution.
What about other forms of violence?
Although ending men’s violence against women is our focus, we are concerned about all forms of violence. We are deeply concerned about violence against children - more information at WWSF world campaign against abuse and violence against children.
We are concerned about violence among boys on the playground, in the sports arena, in relationships, and in war. (www.youthengage-international.ch). And we are concerned by acts of violence by women against women or against men, although these are not as extensive nor as frequently lethal as men’s violence against women.
Unlike violence by some women against men, violence committed by some men against women has long been socially acceptable and is deeply rooted in beliefs of men’s superiority and of men’s right to control the lives of “their” women.
Does this mean you think that men are bad?
We do not think that men are naturally violent and we don't think that men are bad, however we do think all men have roles and responsibilities in ending violence against women. The majority of men are not physically violent. Researchers tell us many past cultures had little or no violence.
At the same time, we do think that some men have learned to express their anger or insecurity through violence. Far too many men have come to believe that violence against a woman, child or another man is an acceptable way to control another person, especially an intimate partner.
By remaining silent about these things, we allow other men to poison our work, schools and homes. The good news is that more and more men and boys want to make a difference. Caring men are tired of the sexism that hurts the women around them. Caring men are also concerned with the impact of this violence on the lives of men and boys.
Do you have opinions on other issues of the day?
Our goal is for all men and boys to get involved in a campaign devoted to creating a future without violence against women. Within the WRC there is a great diversity of opinion on many important issues, including ones relating to moral, religious and political beliefs. These issues are important, but they shouldn’t prevent men from working together to stop domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. And so we agree to hold diverse opinions. We include men from across the political spectrum from left to right, of all religions, ethnic and racial groups, and backgrounds.
Who starts Swiss local and regional campaigns?
The Swiss Campaign is a decentralized effort that believes that people know best what will most effectively reach men and boys in their community, school and workplace. In that sense, anyone who believes in the goals and philosophy of the campaign can start an activity. We encourage White Ribbon supporters in each community to work together and stay connected with the Swiss WR secretariat which disseminates information via the Internet and via email with members and the media to the three linguistic regions, i.e. German, French, and Italian. A guide is available to help you create local and regional projects. Contact us.
Are women part of the campaign? Do they wear the ribbon?
While the WR campaign Switzerland is primarily a campaign of men, aimed at men and boys, we have women supporting the campaign and wearing the white ribbon. Many local campaigns are encouraged by women’s groups, some are led by men and women together, and women participate in many, if not most, activities.
In some countries, campuses, and communities, White Ribbon activities are led exclusively by men. In others, it is a joint effort or even one where women are leading.
Although the white ribbon started as a symbol of men’s opposition to violence against women, in many schools and communities both males and females wear the ribbon. For men, it is a personal pledge, for women a show of support that men and boys have a role and responsibility in ending violence against women.
What are your relations with women's groups?
We acknowledge the expertise and central role of women in challenging violence against women. With tremendous heroism, they pioneered this work; they set up support programs for women and pushed for social awareness and legal change. It is essential for our local groups to have an ongoing dialogue with women's groups in the community. Real progress will only be achieved in partnership with women’s organizations.
How are you funded?
We rely on individual memberships and private donations, which help to pay for some of the expenses. Core funding is a challenge and in 2009 the Loterie Romande, Vivre Autrement, WWSF and APRES supported the campaign program 2009.
Does this take money away from other programs?
We encourage men to give generously to especially women’s programs and by encouraging schools and others to raise money for their work. We believe that by contributing to the reduction of violence against women, we are contributing to the overstretched resources of women's services. And we believe that as more men see this as an important issue, funding will increase to women’s organizations.
Do you provide grants or general financial support?
Unfortunately, at the time being, the WRC is not in the position to provide funding or grants for projects, organizations or for establishing local or regional White Ribbon Campaigns.
How can I help and get involved?
We encourage you to become a member, share the Swiss pledge card and support activities with your generous financial support.
One of the most important things you can do to help end violence against women, is to speak out against it. You can do this by organizing your own White Ribbon Campaign effort in your school, workplace, faith group or community. Do what you can to get as many men and boys involved and encourage them to spread the word to men and boys they know. Feel free to email the Swiss WRC office with any additional questions you may have.
If you want some help to plan your White Ribbon Campaign in Switzerland, we are here to assist you. Give the Geneva office a call at 022 738 66 19. E-mail: