Preventing killings of women and girls worldwide is the ultimate goal of a first-ever global online information resource now being curated by student volunteers at the University of Guelph.
U of G students are collecting data, news, stories and other information from around the globe to be posted on the Femi(ni)cide Watch Platform (FWP), a one-stop online resource for researchers, activists, governments and non-governmental organizations looking to stem gender-based violence and murders.
The platform will be officially relaunched Dec. 10 with an online event involving experts in the field. The event comes two years after the platform’s “soft launch” prompted by a call by the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in 2017.
The platform is co-led by sociology professor Dr. Myrna Dawson, director of U of G’s Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence and holder of a Research Leadership Chair in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences.
Project co-leaders are Saide Mobayed, a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge; Helen Hemblade, a master’s student at the University of York who is currently based at the UN in Vienna; and Dr. Henrike Landré, founder of digital consultancy Coconets in Berlin and the UN Studies Association.
Under the project, six student editors – all current or former U of G students – are posting information to the site. Each volunteer spends several hours a week combing through numerous information sources worldwide including similar nation-level platforms, curating content and organizing that information into various categories on the global platform.
“It’s a great place to get high-quality information all in one website,” said student editor Angelika Zecha, a U of G master’s grad in criminology and criminal justice policy now pursuing a master of public health at the University of Waterloo.
Noting that the site brings together information from varied disciplines including sociology, criminology, public health, politics and arts, she said, “We’re a knowledge hub.”
The site includes links to research and data, policy, news and events, people, activism and multimedia from around the world. Featured this week, for instance, were research on local and global femicide indicators, data on femicides in Turkey, a video about anti-violence initiatives by Brazilian activists, and an art installation about missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
Student editor Abigail Mitchell, a master’s student in criminology and criminal justice policy, said FWP allows users to readily find pertinent information instead of spending time searching through Google, YouTube, Spotify and other sites.
She said Dec. 10 marks the end of this year’s Global 16 Days Campaign, which raises awareness of male violence against women. Now in its 30th year, the campaign is focused this year on femicide.
An online resource for researchers & activists
Mitchell said social media engagement with FWP has skyrocketed during the campaign, with Twitter followers growing by at least 15 per cent during the past week alone.
“The word is getting out there,” she said. “Just by existing, the website is increasing awareness that femicide is a problem. Ten years ago, femicide might not have been in the public conversation. This is part of a larger movement to raise awareness.”
Compiling data in one location also fosters networking and communication among varied users in new ways. That can help researchers work with activists, for instance, in identifying topics or regions for more study, said Ciara Boyd, who is pursuing a doctorate in sociology at U of G.
She said it’s too soon to pinpoint direct results of the project. The site will now provide more consistent information intended to help prevent femicide and gender-based violence, Boyd said: “Education is an extremely important factor for any social change.”
Here in Canada, information sources for the FWP include the U of G-based Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, also run by Dawson. The CFOJA focuses on understanding the causes and consequences of femicide, including releasing an annual report that provides statistics and insights into the killing of women and girls in this country.
Mitchell said Dawson’s involvement with these interlinked initiatives is what drew her to the University for graduate studies.
“Allowing students to get involved gives us an opportunity for professional advancement and social change. It’s awesome that the University has been a leader with this kind of research.”
Other student editors on the project are psychology BA grad Jasmine Sanfilippo; and Haleakala Angus and Andie Rexdiemer, both current MA students in criminology and criminal justice policy.
Dr. Myrna Dawson