Kāpiti Council told they are not a White Ribbon Council

A letter has been sent to Kāpiti Coast Mayor and Councillors from the White Ribbon organisation asking KCDC to stop referring to themselves as a White Ribbon council.

The move comes as increasing numbers of public and elected members have made repeated claims of bullying and intimidation from the council.

The White Ribbon campaign has been highly successful in highlighting issues of bullying and violence and clearly they are taking their branding and their message seriously when it appears it may be being misused.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear KCDC Mayor and Councillors

White Ribbon is a campaign that focuses on ending men’s violence towards women. It originated in Canada as a men’s response to the murder of 14 women and became a worldwide campaign and was brought to NZ by UNIFEM (now UN Women) in 2004. Last year the campaign was entrusted to the White Ribbon Campaign Trust.

As the campaign manager I have been dismayed to see the White Ribbon brand being used by KCDC councillors as a defence against allegations of bullying behaviour. I am also concerned to see the brand of White Ribbon being used to further publicise the issues that a number of ratepayers have with the council.

Councillor Elliott is quite correct that we as White Ribbon have been very reluctant to become involved in this dispute as it was hoped that this issue would be sorted out within the council process.

White Ribbon has limited resources and prefers to spend crucial time in planning the creation of the campaign, supporting events leading up to the month of November and organising the White Ribbon Ride. We are reluctant to be involved in this type of dispute; however when it brings the White Ribbon brand into question it is important to clarify our stance.

The issue which we are focused on is the prevention of violence by men to women. The (on average) 14 women each year killed as a result of domestic violence, the 3,500 plus convictions against men every year for domestic violence is something this campaign wants to stop.

As you are aware we have been publicly working towards a ‘workplace strategy’, whereby organisations can with permission, call themselves ‘White Ribbon organisations’. We see there is the opportunity to work with businesses, NGOs, sports teams and councils to embed anti-violence policies and proactive action which could benefit New Zealand.

This work is not yet complete, and we intend to trial this initially with a small number of organisations. Once we completed this trial we planned to approach other organisations such as the Kāpiti District Council to either cease calling themselves a White Ribbon Council, or take part in the next phase of the trial to create an environment that exemplified White Ribbon principles.

Given the concerns expressed by some members of the public about actions of the KCDC, White Ribbon now asks that they cease calling themselves a ‘White Ribbon’ Council. Until we have agreed and proven processes for approving any business or council as a White Ribbon approved organisation, it is inappropriate for KCDC to use this title.

It is inappropriate for councillors who may have used White Ribbon as a defence to allegations of bullying behaviour, to somehow use an unsanctioned “White Ribbon status” as a defence. Simply stating you are a self-appointed White Ribbon organisation does not guarantee you uphold White Ribbon values nor does it adequately deflect allegations of bullying. Our brand and campaign is being unfairly used within this dispute.

As a show of goodwill we ask all the KCDC councillors to support the White Ribbon campaign (as individuals) and our aim of ending men’s violence towards women. While there are clear disagreements and perhaps even ideological divides, perhaps the one thing to agree upon, is that violence women face must end.

You now have an opportunity to show the community that despite your differences, you are willing to join me and sign the White Ribbon Pledge ‘to never commit condone or remain silent about violence towards women’.

I would like to organise a time this coming Monday to sign ‘The Pledge’ and invite media to record your commitment to helping end men’s violence towards women. In coming months we will be able to discuss with other businesses, councils and organisations what they need to do to obtain a ‘White Ribbon Status,’ something that will be reviewed each year.

Should you wish to find out more about this year’s campaign, please visit whiteribbon.org.nz/sexual-violence-and-the-issue-of-consent/respectful-relationships/.

Rob McCann

White Ribbon Campaign Manager