Yearly Archives: 2015

Respectful Relationships National Grantee Meeting in Calgary by Christina Antonick

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“Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky.”
– Sonia Gandhi-

In early October, I was blessed to travel to Calgary for a national meeting of Canadian Women’s Foundation’s 17 Teen Healthy Relationships Grantees – of which our Respectful Relationships is one. CWF are working to stop violence, end poverty, and empower girls in every province and territory in Canada. For 15 years they have been investing in teen healthy relationship programs; the last five of which have been multi-year investments. These grants focus on school-based healthy relationship programs and were developed as a key strategy to prevent violence against women and girls.

During our two days together, I had the great pleasure of meeting over 30 educators, activists and community mobilizers from across the country. From my hometown province, Nova Scotia’s Leave Out ViolencE (LOVE) with programs in Indian Brook and Membertou First Nations, in Montreal, Building Healthy Relationships at Bureau de la Communauté Haïtienne de Montreal, TAG-V: Teens Against Gender Violence Abrigo Centre doing amazing work with youth in Toronto. Newcomer Youth & Healthy Relationships a co-ed, school-based healthy relationships program targeted to newcomer refugee youth (aged 12-17). These are only a few of the many national programs that are offering exceptional youth violence prevention programs and our 2 days together left me full of inspiration, hope and pride! I am also really grateful that SWOVA’s Respectful Relationship’s Program joins together with communities across Canada to create a network of national education models aimed at eliminating violence and fostering health, safety and well being for youth.

by Christina Antonick, R+R Facilitator

 

Photo: Megan Manning

 

Australian’s research on best-practice respectful relationships programs includes SWOVA – by Ellen Poyner

Ellyn with Lynda Laushway, Christina Antonick, and Sharyn Carroll

Ellen with Lynda Laushway, Christina Antonick, and Sharyn Carroll

I’m an Australian Social Worker, who had the privilege of visiting SWOVA as part of my Churchill Fellowship – a scholarship supporting me to travel to Canada and the USA to investigate Family Violence and Sexual Assault prevention programs, approaches and evaluations.

As I travel around, my intention is to learn about unique and promising practice, to then share when I return home. I was inspired by Lynda, Christina and Sharyn who shared details about SWOVA’s Respectful Relationships program, training and youth engagement. I was particularly interested to learn about the Youth Team as I’ve not heard of such an established youth-leadership component in any program back home. I loved that the focus was on providing further enrichment and opportunity for the participants, as much as supporting them to co-facilitate future programs.

I was also interested to hear about the strengths and challenges of SWOVA’s online, module style training which allows the program to reach more young people in more parts of Canada. This is perhaps something for Australian’s to consider, given our equally large and expansive country.

Given that Salt Spring Island is relatively isolated, I was amazed that the SWOVA team has achieved so much.

Thanks for having me!

by Ellen Poyner

If you would like, you can follow my Fellowship blog – ellenpoyner.wordpress.com

 

Ellyn with Cynthia Gillis (Chair of SWOVA board)

Ellen with Cynthia Gillis (Chair of SWOVA board)

Consent by Lynda Laushway

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Consent is a big topic in the news these days. What constitutes consent to sexual activity? When and how is consent given? How do we misinterpret consent? These are some of the topics in the news and on many peoples’ minds. This is particularly true for university and college campuses across Canada as our young people head to school in what we hope will be safe environments for them.

 

 

The Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) in Toronto has published results from a survey they did on consent. Some of the results are quite startling:

67% of all Canadians say they personally know at least one womanwho has been sexually or physically assaulted.

  • 10% of Canadians incorrectly believe that consent is not required between spouses or long-term partners.
  • 21% of people between 18 and 34 incorrectly believe sending an explicit photo, textor email counts as consent.
  • 96% agree that sexual activity must be consensual, two-thirds (67%) do not fully understand how to properly give or get it.

CWF has a clear definition of consent: “Sexual consent is a two-way exchange: it’s an ongoing process of giving and getting permission. This means showing—in words and actions—that you freely agree to participate in a sexual activity. This means continuing to give your permission throughout the sexual encounter. You can revoke your consent at any time.”

Though these may be complicated waters for our youth to navigate it is important that they understand consent and do not leave themselves open to anything other than mutual agreement, freely given, in their sexual activities. This is an important part of having a healthy and respectful relationship.

 

By Lynda Laushway, consultant

 

Why Focus on Gender-based Violence? by Lynda Laushway

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There is a lot of violence in our world and it takes many forms- men’s violence towards other men, violence perpetrated on children, violence directed at seniors, violence against lesbian, gay and transgendered people, and violence against women, to name some of the more prevalent forms. The motivations for violence are many and complex and may include power and control, greed, jealousy, rage, fear, racism, homophobia and mental disorders.

Violence is a big problem in our world and everyday people are hurt and suffer because of it. It is overwhelming to think about trying to prevent violence in all its forms.  At SWOVA we have chosen to focus on one part of the violence spectrum and that is on gender-based violence. It is one part among many that can make our world a safer place. If many of us assume a part in preventing violence, our collective impact can be truly significant.

SWOVA chose gender-based violence prevention because we felt compelled to make a difference in this area.  According to the United Nations, “Violence against women and girls is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. It knows no social, economic or national boundaries. Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime.”

Gender-based violence undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence. Victims of violence can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, traumatic fistula, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and even death.”

Preventing violence in all forms is important to us at SWOVA.  Let’s all do our part and together we can make a difference.

 

By Lynda Laushway – SWOVA Consultant

 

Crime Costs, Prevention Pays by lynda laushway

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Canada is spending billions of dollars each year on police, courts and corrections. In the past 10 years these costs have increased by 50 percent. These costs do not include the human suffering to individuals and families. Investment in preventing crime is a wiser use of our money.

In 2009 in Canada, women self-reported 472,000 sexual assaults according to the General Social Survey, Statistics Canada. The problem of spousal violence is not declining – similar rates of spousal violence were reported from 1999 to 2009.

A recent news release from Dr. Irvin Waller, Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa states that Canadian studies emphasize the effectiveness of preventing violence against women.

The social return on investment from pre-crime prevention is significant. Most recently, a number of Canadian studies emphasize the effectiveness of preventing violence against women. The evidence is clear from a number of gender-based prevention program results across Canada that changing the behaviour of males significantly reduces sexual assaults.

There are hopeful signs that the investment in Canadian crime prevention programs is paying off.

 

By Lynda Laushway – Consultant to SWOVA

Sexual Assault Hits Mainstream Media By Lynda Laushway

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The New Yorker magazine’s recent cover photo is of thirty-five women who allege that they were sexually assaulted by actor Bill Cosby over a period of decades. Some of the alleged victims have come forth on their own for years but their claims were hushed up, silenced or diminished.

It wasn’t until thirty-five women reported together that society actually started to pay attention.  Why did it take this long and why did it take this many alleged victims before people would listen?  We can speculate that it was because the alleged perpetrator is a famous man who had the outward image of a loving TV persona. We can speculate that it was because the alleged perpetrator had many well-known supporters. We can speculate that it was because the alleged perpetrator had a lot of money and could pay good lawyers and media relations people.

Many of the women’s reputations were damaged during the years of allegations, with rumours, gossip and the denigration of their integrity. What is the price that women face when they report sexual assault, particularly when a man of power and wealth is involved?

There are many issues to ponder and they strike at the heart of our society’s view of women, men and sexual assault.

 

By Lynda Laushway –  Consultant to SWOVA

 

Re-defining Feminism by Elise Pearson

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I find that definitions can be limiting and problematic, and I’d like to see if I can encourage you to think for yourselves about what this word, or movement, or ideology might mean to you. Instead I’ll start by providing a few different definitions I’ve come across that I like, and try to give evidence as to why I think that feminism is a topic vital of covering here.

Bell Hooks describes feminism as the movement to end sexism.

Others say it is a collective effort to dismantle patriarchy.

A common definition is the aim to strive towards political, economic, cultural and social equality for women.

I say “for women” because throughout history (at least in the Western world) feminism has largely been coined as a “women’s” fight or movement. I’ll talk mainly about the West because that is the world that many of us find ourselves situated in. I think that when we discuss any kind of social justice work, it is vital that we start with ourselves.

We have the first wave and the second wave and the third waves of feminism, and I am not going to deny that there have been pivotal moments throughout our history that have largely influenced where we are today in terms of equality. We’ve made some huge leaps. However, I am curious about the spaces between these moments – what has and still is falling through the cracks, and how each and every one of us participates in ways that allow us to be complicit in systems that work to recreate and maintain social inequality.

I have come across a lot of people that shy away from the word feminism. I believe that this word is misunderstood. For myself, feminism has never been an attack on men, but people ask all the time, why not humanism?

I’ll give you the short version of my response: many of the systems we live in here, are patriarchal. Unfortunately, gender-based discrimination is still pervasive in our culture; unequal pay for the same work, sexual harassment and abuse, sexist comments, and still the constant message that one half of our worlds’ population is worth less than their male counterparts.

We are often bombarded with media and messages about what a “feminist” is. I see a disconnection between what feminist ideologies have sought to uncover or achieve, and common perceptions or stereotypes of what feminism is or should be. The self-identified feminists I know are curious about social inequality. I have witnessed many, across any gender category, who do “feminist work” that have often been silenced in sometimes disturbing ways, because to question the systems and social norms we exist within means questioning the ways in which we ourselves perpetuate them.

What I have come to learn about feminist theory is that many feminist academics don’t believe in an end goal of perfect equality for all. They seek to find ways in which to address how or why we live in a socially unjust world, and provide insight into ways that we might seek to do better. Let’s take an oversimplified example and contrast a child living in the Western world, say Canada, who never goes without, and is surrounded by TV screens with a child living in Sub-Saharan Africa, who has a plastic bottle to play with. How do we compare their happiness? I think that many feminists I know would agree that “equality” across the board is not necessarily going to be the answer. Better quality of life is going to look different across different contexts. One of the things that I admire about feminism is that it tends to cherish complexity.

The Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project seeks to develop leadership skills in young women. This work has provided me with a window into the ramifications of living in what I call, a wounded world. It has forced me to look at myself, and listen to how my peers suffer from the same fears that I did and still do – feelings of inadequacy, barriers keeping them from stating how they truly feel, loving whom they truly want to love, striving for what they truly want, and caring for their bodies amidst the pressures of an unattainable ideal of beauty. Despite having been handed immense amounts privilege, too many of us are hurting. In the Girl’s Leadership project, I have been witness to the power of what I call feminism. We speak honestly, curiously, and approach conversations with open minds and hearts.

What really hurts is that we live in a world where men and women are expected to BE certain ways.  A world where men are dominant and women subordinate and anyone in between doesn’t even fit inside the frame — a world without a Salish Sea Boys’ Leadership Project. I grieve for that world, and I’m sad for men. In the past, feminism has targeted and been exclusive and sometimes it has had good reason to be. It’s 2015 and we live and exist in this world together. No one benefits from oppression. No one benefits from a world where men are told not to care and not to cry and women are told be quiet and comply. What I see is feminism bringing light to the tangled mess that we’ve made of our society.

I don’t think that it is the word Feminism that scares us, or even it’s connotations. What scares us is the the potential that if we could be honest with ourselves and the way things are going in our world, we’d see that they are pretty messed up. That would call into question a lot of truths we (often somewhat unconsciously) hold about others and ourselves. I am a woman. I am cisgenderd. I am white. But what do those categories do for me? Why am I allowed to participate in spaces where I can be emotional, open and honest with my heart? What are the kinds of barriers I may or may not face as I move through the world as a result of both my privileges and oppressions? I think there is value in asking questions about the way the world works, and noticing how that directly impacts who we are. Only then can we forge a path towards the kind of world we want to live in. Feminism has allowed me to find agency in awareness, both open-mindedness and critique, and curiosity.

I wish I could somehow make feminism more accessible, because I think that the world could be a better, more socially just, place if we were all a little bit more curious, and a little bit more honest. I think the best place to start is with ourselves. So I boldly encourage you to ask more questions and to be more honest, whatever that looks like for you – also, unabashedly, to promote feminism.

Elise Pearson, Outreach Coordinator for the Salish Sea Girl’s Leadership project

 

 

 

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