The colour green usually means go. But in northwestern Ontario, First Nations are using green light bulbs to symbolize their fight against the high level of violence faced by women and girls.
Called the Green Light Strategy, First Nation communities are being asked to light up their homes with green bulbs to symbolize that they stand for healthy families and against violence.
"There's been homicides, there's been brutal sexual assaults,” said Karen Kejick, the woman behind the strategy. Kejick is a member of the Grand Council Treaty #3 Women's Executive Council.
The Green Light Strategy recently kicked off on the Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation near Nestor Falls, distributing 50 green light bulbs in the community.
Kejick says the colour green has a strong cultural significance to First Nations.
“Green is a healing colour,” says Kejick. "It represents healing and a spiritual connection to mother earth."
Although in the preliminary stages, First Nation leaders and community members in northwestern Ontario are already joining in.
Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation, east of International Falls will be launching the green light strategy in a couple of weeks, said Chief Gary Allen.
“When we have strong, healthy women, we have healthy communities," said Chief Allen.
“I think it's needed especially when we're looking at missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada and the continued violence against our women,“
Earlier this year, Ottawa-based researcher Maryanne Pearce revealed that there were 824 missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls in Canada.
Even though it is not known how many of these cases are from northwestern Ontario, Pearce plans to break down her research by region.
What is known is that aboriginal women and girls in Canada experience higher rates of violence and are eight times more likely to be murdered compared to non-Aboriginal women.
“When federal, provincial, and even our own leaders are flying over us at night, they'll be reminded there's work to be done,” says Kejick.
Currently the strategy is operating with no funds. The goal is to not only raise awareness about violence but to raise funds to purchase security systems, dead bolts, or even self-defence classes for women.
“No one is going to help us, we have to do it ourselves, together,” said Kejick.
“The vision is to empower our communities by working together to work on ending violence.”
The Urban Native Friendship Centre in Fort Frances is interested in hosting an event and bringing the strategy to all the friendship centres across the province.
Taking it one step further, planning is underway to declare a National Day of Empowerment for women and girls.