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Manitoba Government News Release–As part of its whole-of-government approach to address gender-based violence, the Manitoba government is providing $600,000 from the Indigenous Reconciliation Initiatives Fund to Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata to support two projects that will work to help break the cycle of violence, Families Minister Rochelle Squires, minister responsible for the status of women and Indigenous Reconciliation and Northern Relations Minister Eileen Clarke announced today.

“To reduce gender-based violence, we must challenge the pervasiveness of abuse and the societal attitudes and norms that perpetuate it,” said Squires. “These community-based prevention projects will work to address the interrelated, intersecting root causes of gender-based violence.”

The “EmpowerMen Project” is a pilot project with an innovative and proactive approach to prevent the sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people. Through a combination of workshops, online strategies, support services and engagement with law enforcement agencies as well as the corporate sector, this community-led program will educate men and boys about the demand-side of sexual exploitation and its harms, and will use technology to deter purchasing of sexual acts.

“Gender-based violence is rooted in historic global gender inequality and systemic oppression, including colonization. While anyone can experience gender-based violence, Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people are disproportionately affected,” said Clarke. “Therefore, our approach to addressing gender-based violence must account for the unique nature of their experiences and have a sustained focus on reconciliation.”

In partnership with the University of Manitoba, the program will also research the demand-side of sexual exploitation. Having an increased understanding of the motivations, attitudes and behaviours of sex purchasers will facilitate the development of effective, targeted solutions, noted Squires.

“Men and boys have an important role to reduce sexual exploitation and trafficking. The funding for the EmpowerMen Project allows us to focus on prevention and intervention in new and innovative ways with men and boys to advance equality and safety for women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people,” said Tammy Christensen, executive director, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata. “We are pleased that the Manitoba government has also invested in the MMIWG2S+ Partnership Implementation Plan that will support Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people in reclaiming power and place through a matriarchal lens.”

The Manitoba MMIWG2S+ Partnership Implementation Plan is an Indigenous-led project that will work to strategically implement the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in a culturally relevant way.

The grassroots program will be guided by a traditional Indigenous matriarchal governing body, comprised of Knowledge Keepers, Elders, MMIWG2S+ family members, survivors and Indigenous experts, noted the ministers, adding that the group will establish governance and organizational processes that outline clear roles and responsibilities, and measurable outcomes for the multi-year project.

The $5-million Indigenous Reconciliation Initiatives Fund supports projects that work to end gender-based violence through prevention and support for those who may experience violence, as well as intervention for those who may use violence.