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Pink Shirt Day

Pink Shirt Day is observed on the last Wednesday of February in Canada; it’s a day marked by people wearing pink shirts to take a stand against bullying. This initiative started in Nova Scotia in 2007, after two teen boys saw a younger student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school; these boys went out and bought 50 pink shirts for students to wear. By the end of that week, most of the school was wearing pink shirts to show their support for the student who had been being bullied.

Pink Shirt Day has grown to an international event, marked on different days in different parts of the world. It is a day that promotes kindness, and calls for an end to all bullying, and while it’s an opportunity to start these discussions, these are conversations that need to happen regularly at all levels to ensure we are creating long-lasting, positive change.

The statistics around bullying in Canada are staggering. One in three adolescents report recently being bullied – and these are just the ones who are reporting these incidents. Even more eye-opening is that nearly half of Canadian parents (47%) report having a child be a victim of bullying. Given that bullying can have long-term negative outcomes, for both the victim and the bully, it’s past time for a culture shift when it comes to bullying.

Bullying can take many forms, including physical violence (e.g., punching, kicking), verbal (e.g., teasing, name-calling), relational (e.g., social exclusion, spreading lies), and cyber-bullying (i.e., bullying that takes place over digital devices, like cellphones, computers, and tablets). Recent surveys found girls to be more likely to be exposed to verbal bullying, while boys are more likely to be victims of physical violence. Bullying puts youth at risk of immediate and long-term risk for many emotional, behavioural, and interpersonal problems, including higher risk of sexual harassment and dating aggression, and may later extend to workplace harassment, as well as spousal, child, and elder abuse.

YWCA Edmonton’s GirlSpace program aims to reduce the risk of violence in the lives of adolescent girls, improve their physical and mental health, and set the stage for their development into strong, healthy, and empowered young women. GirlSpace concentrates on equipping girls with the critical skills necessary for healthy development by focusing topics on the specific needs and experiences of girls and young women, including bullying, harassment, and healthy relationships. Not only do the GirlSpace participants address the topic of bullying throughout the program, they are taught techniques to counter and overcome bullying behaviours.

By creating a safe, non-judgemental, confidential space for girls, the GirlSpace program leaves them better equipped to cope with challenges and hardships in their life, including overcoming bullying, addressing school concerns, and identifying unhealthy relationships. Participants have reported improved ability to overcome adversities through program participation, including coping with bullying and addressing relational concerns at home and with their peers. As we continue to empower girls through the GirlSpace program, we look to a kinder, more equitable future for all.

If you are being bullied, or know someone who is being bullied, help is available:
Alberta Bullying Helpline: 1-888.456-2323 or alberta.ca/BullyingChat
Canada Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

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