People have a range of opinions about the importance and relevancy of “Days of Awareness” campaigns, especially in the information era where you can “just Google it”. Supporters of Awareness Days do so because they appreciate and value the focus of attention on important issues like gender equality and women’s rights. In addition, awareness days provide a platform to highlight important topics that often go unnoticed or are overshadowed by the headlines of that day’s news. With thoughtful planning, awareness days provide opportunities to educate the public, dispel myths, challenge stereotypes, and promote understanding. This increase in understanding can lead to greater empowerment and empathy that is sparked by awareness day discussions. Awareness Days can also provide a well-known platform for advocacy, community mobilization and calls for policy and systemic changes.
However, contrarians to awareness days argue that we need to critically evaluate certain awareness days to ensure they are not merely symbolic gestures but lead to tangible action and change. They argue we may need to analyze whether that the day’s goals, message, and impact actually align with the principles and intentions of the group or cause they are promoting. They call us to ask, “How far off has the campaign veered from the primary intention or the people it is meant to serve?” Some organizations who emphasize and value intersectionality insist we assess whether awareness days adequately address the diverse experiences within the movement surrounding a particular awareness day. Attention must be paid to ensure diverse representation in awareness campaigns. Campaigns that perpetuate stereotypes or exclude certain perspectives or groups within the movement must be critiqued and questioned. Without a doubt, we need to be cautious about the potential for tokenism, where awareness days are used to demonstrate a commitment to a cause without meaningful actions to address the underlying problems.
For us at Connect, the key to awareness days is to engage in constructive discussions, advocate for genuine change, and strive for inclusivity and equity in all aspects of the feminist movement, including the ways awareness is raised around important issues. Connect will continue to promote relevant days of awareness because with your help we can use these campaigns to:
- Promote Awareness: Each of these days focuses on promoting awareness about a specific issue or cause. Whether it’s Mi’kmaq culture, non-violence, missing and murdered Indigenous women, mental health, poverty eradication, women’s history, breast cancer, or other important topics, the goal is to bring these matters into public consciousness.
- Highlight Contributions and Challenges: Awareness days celebrate the contributions, history, and achievements of groups. They also highlight the challenges, discrimination, or struggles these groups face while striving for change.
- Advocate for Change: Many of these awareness days also serve as platforms to advocate for change, whether it’s policy changes, societal shifts, or personal actions. They encourage people to take action, support, and create positive change.
- Education and Empowerment: These awareness days often provide education and information to the public, helping them better understand the topic at hand. This knowledge empowers individuals to make informed decisions, show empathy, and engage in meaningful discussions.
- Address Stigma: Several of these awareness days aim to reduce the stigma and stereotypes associated with certain topics. They provide an opportunity to open up conversations, challenge misconceptions, and promote understanding.
- Recognize Historical Significance: Some of these days commemorate historical events or decisions that have had a lasting impact on society, such as Persons Day in Canada, which recognizes the inclusion of women in the legal definition of “persons.”
- Unite Communities: These awareness days bring people together, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose. They create spaces for individuals to connect, support one another, and collectively address challenges.
- Global Perspective: While some awareness days are specific to certain regions or countries, others have a global focus. They remind us that these issues and challenges extend beyond borders and impact people worldwide.
Overall, these awareness days play a crucial role in raising public consciousness, advocating for change, and promoting a more inclusive and empathetic society. They offer opportunities for education, engagement, and reflection on important issues that affect individuals and communities in various ways.