Canadians are being urged to join a gender violence awareness campaign that kicked off on Wednesday, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The 16 Days of Activism campaign urges people to “take the pledge” and educate themselves and others about what could be done to end violence against women and girls.

The campaign will end on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day. It will also span another important date: Dec. 6, which marks the 26th anniversary of the murders of 14 young women at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique.

Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu told CTV’s Power Play that the campaign is an “awareness piece” and a “call to action” to end violence against women.

“It’s a way to embrace and celebrate the work that so many organizations do across the world and certainly in Canada, stemming from the non-profit that’s struggling at a very grassroots level all the way up to national bodies that are trying to make change in this area.”

Hajdu speaks from experience on her new file. She said she has faced “some forms of violence” in her personal life, which she didn’t get into. And on a professional level, she was also the executive director of a homeless shelter in Thunder Bay, where she helped women dealing with violence in their lives.

The minister said both men and women need to be involved in the effort to end violence against women.

“It really is a two-part conversation. A conversation with men and boys about how to be good men, and a conversation with women about how to stand up and use your voice,” said Hajdu.

She also said there are wider systemic changes that need to happen to help women get out of “a perpetual state of crisis and chaos.”

“The police are overwhelmed, the emergency room is overwhelmed, the EMS responders are overwhelmed, and it almost becomes … an expected state for women.” 

Rona Ambrose, the interim leader of the Conservative Party and critic for the status of women, also issued a statement commemorating the assassinations of the Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic in 1960. The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women was designated in their honour.   

“On November 25th 1960, the lives of three young sisters, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa Mirabal, were tragically taken because they were political activists. They were brutally murdered for trying to stand up for what they believed in,” Ambrose said.

She urged “all orders of government” to play a role in raising awareness about violence against women, as well as create and support programs that assist women and girls.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also invited Canadians to take the anti-violence pledge.