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Students interact with the monument to commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, December 6, 2016. (Credit: Kevin Soobrian)

Engineering undergraduate students marked the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women by designing and constructing an original monument on King’s College Road, next to the Sandford Fleming Building. The monument is a tribute to the victims of the killings at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal on December 6, 1989, in which 14 female engineering students studying at the university were shot and killed because they were female. Thirteen others were wounded.

The U of T Engineering students’ monument features 14 silhouettes arranged in a semi-circle — each bears white lights in the shape of a memorial ribbon that observers can light by pressing a button on one of three informational plaques. The hand-shaped buttons encourage readers to light the tribute as an act of solidarity with girls and women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

“I made a very conscious decision when choosing to pursue a career in engineering. I didn’t only take my own interests and passions of math and science into consideration, but also what it would mean other young women to see someone like myself in an engineering program,” says Danja Papajani (Year 2 ElecE). “I’m not afraid to stand up for myself, or to call myself a feminist, and I will try, as much as I can, to uplift the voices who are still uncomfortable doing so themselves. I recognize that I’ve been privileged with a fantastic education, a loving and supporting family, and a very accepting school community. This day reminds me that it is no longer just about myself.”

“This day means two things to me. First, it is an awful reminder of how deep prejudice can run, and second, it is a hopeful contrast to our present day progress,” says Joshua Calafato (Year 3 EngSci), a co-chair of the Engineering Society’s Blue & Gold Committee. “Though we still have much distance to cover, it seems that the stigmas against women in science and engineering are being lifted: the percentage of female engineering students entering our community is growing every year, and it seems that society is finally accepting that the fallacy of mathematical fields being ‘for men’ is just that — a fallacy.”

“The awful memory of the Montréal massacre provides us with an enduring call to action. Each of us has the power to say no to misogyny, reject sexist language, call out even casual sexism, and be respectful in our interactions with others,” says The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Canada’s federal Minister of Status of Women.

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Marit Mitchell
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