Tagged: Activists

Taking Back the Night


by Kiran Dhingra, MSW, RSW, Executive Director

As I write these words, it is a few days after the Take Back the Night march that took place in our community last Friday June 10th, 2016.  The event was organized from a ground swell of supporters in response to a woman who had recently been sexually assaulted in the community.   I know that we like to think that violence, especially sexual crimes don’t happen here on this beautiful island paradise. Of course, we know that’s simply not true.

It is a sad reality that not everyone is safe on this Island.  Many of us, especially women and children are at greater risk of having violence perpetrated against us, usually by someone we already know, although not always.  Sometimes it’s a stranger or someone we hardly know at all.  My hope is that everyone will feel safe in our community as that is a right we all deserve.

That is why SWOVA, has been working toward eliminating violence through prevention and education programs that empower our young people for the past 20 years.  SWOVA was born out of a terrible act of violence toward a woman in the community that happened in the early 90s.  At that time, community came together because it wanted to help and do something to support the woman who had been assaulted, but also because it knew that there were other women out there who needed a safe haven; a place they could go to start healing.

So, my mind comes back to this most recent act of violence.  Only with the survivor’s strength and courage to speak out about what happened, and her desire to find a way to take back the night, are we reminded yet again of the impact and importance of the issue of violence against women right here on Salt Spring Island.

There is tremendous power in that act of courage, as well as in all the people who organized, attended, marched, cried, got angry, and made calls for change and awareness.  SWOVA stands with you and supports you.  In closing, I share these words, written by poet and author, Maya Angelou,maya-angelous-words-wisdom-0_240x340_11

“Having courage does not mean that we are unafraid. 

Having courage and showing courage means we face our fears. 

We are able to say, “I have fallen, but I will get up.”

Respectful Relationships National Grantee Meeting in Calgary by Christina Antonick



“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)

June 16th, 1976: Reflections on South African Youth Day

Hector Pieterson

photo by Sam Nzima


“They are a generation whose whole education has been under the diabolical design of the racists to poison the minds and brainwash our children into docile subjects of apartheid rule.”

-Nelson Mandela


Thirty-nine years ago and yesterday, South African youth led an uprising against the apartheid regime. The image of twelve-year-old Hector Pieterson dying in the arms of his fellow student after being hit by a police bullet came to symbolize the utter bankruptcy of a system that sought to make people of colour servants to the twisted logic of racism. Hector was one of 566 children and youth who died at the hands of the state in this wave of protests.

June 16th is a public holiday in South Africa and vigils and memorials are held at the monument to Hector in Orlando, Soweto, the Johannesburg township that remains a hotbed of youth culture, activism and still today, dissent and protest led by youth. The difference, now, is that South Africa has a progressive constitution, modelled on our own, and a parliament, much like ours, where the work of progressively realizing the rights of children and youth takes place, for the most part, in a peaceful fashion.

As a recent returnee to Canada, I am deeply impressed by the ways in which some communities and schools have created safe political spaces for young people, how these accommodate the diversity of views, encourage critical thinking and turn youth into stakeholders in, rather than just passive recipients of, their own education.

There is still work to be done on equity and inclusiveness in extending these privileges to all communities, but I am pretty excited by the vast potential for leveraging – for creating a contagious culture of peace that could be a powerful counterpart to those who have sought to employ young people in agendas of oppression, racism, dominance, violence and warfare.

So my question is always, “what are we really hearing, when we listen to young people – their own voices, emerging from confident, capable and fearless individuals?” We cannot afford to be complacent – their authentic voices tell us about ourselves, our culture and our democracy. We cannot allow our youth to become background music while we take our peace for granted.

Angela McIntyre, Executive Director
June 16, 2015

Why I Call Myself a Feminst / # Name Calling – By Sharyn Carroll

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 3.27.26 PM

Feminist: Adjective – of relating to or advocating for equal rights for women; advocating for social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.

Noun – An advocate for such rights; a person who advocates for equal rights for women.



I, Sharyn Carroll, call myself a feminist. Not an equalist or humanist. There is a lot of nostalgic admiration contained in this word for me although at times the word is hurled at me as an insult. I hear gen-z asking if it is not time to change it to something that speaks to all gender variations.  This may be a question to consider but first it is important to look at its relevance.

The use of the term feminism speaks to the systematic injustices that have been historically put into place, to make women lesser than, or unequal, globally. Being a feminist does not mean that I only stand on the side of equal pay for equal work, or lobby against domestic violence in the place that I live, it means speaking up for the right of all woman to breast feed whenever their child is hungry; I lend my voice to young woman and girls who are forced into marriages with men old enough to be their fathers; I advocate for all girls to get educated; I speak out for girls and young boys who are forced into sexual slavery; and I express my concern that everyone understands what consent means.

To call myself a feminist means that I understand that we are all in this together — women and men.  To live in a world where women are liberated means that men are also free. Free to live in a world where self-expression is not confined to gender roles. Free from having the weight of the world put on their shoulders, because they have to “man-up” and handle it all. It means transgendered persons are just that, people.  I would rather live in a world where acceptance of any human trait is seen as just that. A recent report by United Nations states that in the twenty years since it set out to achieve gender equality not one country has been able to achieve this.

Calling myself a feminist means I pay homage to those who have come before me and speaks to a history of advocacy for a struggle that is unique to women world-wide. It also means that I understand the next generation will probably do things differently. Holding onto this word may make me nostalgic or even old fashioned, but when I use it I don’t have to really explain where I am coming from. I embodied this word long before I knew what it meant and will continue to do so for the rest of my existence because it is who I am.

By Sharyn Carroll, R + R Facilitator



SWOVA Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow

Gender Based Violence as Exemplified by Tugce Albayrak – by Kevin Vowles


There’s a lot of big stuff going on right now, that as my colleague at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Diane Hill, noted recently are watershed moments.  From Jian Ghomeshi and our MPs, to conversations about what consent really means, reporting violations, and an overall renewed enthusiasm for discussion of gender based violence as a whole, we are living in a remarkable time.  I call it peak-awareness in conversation with people.  We are reaching a state of heightened awareness about gender-based violence.

A group I’m working with at Royal Roads University notes: “The United Nations defines Gender Based Violence as: “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”  (www.studentsagainstviolence.ca)

Of course gender based violence is not the only thing we should be talking about.  Men experience war, physical violence from other men, homophobia, risky and unrealistic gender norms and expectations, and sometimes violence from other women.  Hell, there’s been a rash of male teenage hockey players in the USA being molested by their friends’ moms.  Boys do get molested by women and men.  However, the difference lies in power.  Gender based violence is based on one person having significant power over another.

Nowhere is this more evident, and nowhere is the need for the conversation more evident, than the case of Tugce Albayrak in Germany.  Tugce intervened in a washroom where men were harassing teenage girls.  She showed bravery and courage, as she became an active by-stander that day.  The men left the washroom and the girls, but they did not forget, and one of them proceeded to beat her into a coma in the parking lot, allegedly with a baseball bat.   She subsequently died.

As I sat with SWOVA’s youth team I expressed feeling upset and disheartened by this.  I asked youth to talk about things that upset them, in an effort to allow them to show tears and grief, because we know that if we keep it bottled up it’s going to negatively impact us.  I also asked them “if they could be a superhero who would they be?”  Most youth spoke of batman, spiderman and superman.  I’ve asked this question before and it’s a fairly typical response.  When it came around to me, I said I’d be a superhero that stops gender-based violence.  Of course Tugce Albayrak was that superhero that fateful day in McDonald’s.

Standing up for what is right is never an easy thing and she paid the ultimate price for her courage and bravery.  She paid the ultimate price for standing up to sexism and objectification and harassment.  She paid the price and now we must have the conversation about being a by-stander and the risks entailed with that.  She’s a true hero and she allows us to peel back the onion one more layer; to dive a little deeper and hopefully create the dialogue needed to create empathy, compassion and a vision of a future where all people can be free of the threat of violence.

by Kevin Vowles, R+R Facilitator


SWOVA empowering youth for a better tomorrow

An Invitation from Emma Watson to Join the ‘He for She Campaign’ in the Struggle for Gender Equality


 “Fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man hating.  If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.  For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.  It is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” – Emma Watson at the United Nations

Video of Emma Watson’s speech to the UN



A Young People’s History of the United States – a book review by Megan Manning



“Maybe our future can be found in the past’s moments of kindness and courage rather than its centuries of warfare.” – Howard Zinn

Most history books are written by the winners, but this book presents history from a different point of view.  The history of the United States from the perspective of the poor, slaves, women, Native Americans, and other oppressed populations is a sad story.   Regardless of whether you agree with Howard Zinn or not, it is good to hear a different perspective.

The most interesting parts of this book are the many quotes that Zinn uses to illustrate his points. Christopher Columbus who is usually portrayed as a hero and adventurer who ‘discovered’ America, says the following about his encounter with the native people:

“They (Arawak Indians) brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and Hawks’ bells.  They willingly traded everything they owned … They were well built, with good bodies and handsome features … They do not bear arms, and do not know them … They would make fine servants …With 50 men we could subjugate them and make them do whatever we want.” 

It sounds pretty scary, but it only illustrates the prevailing attitude of a vast majority of Europeans at the time.

This quote from former slave, John Little, is a poignant description of what it was like to be a slave. “They say that slaves are happy, because they laugh, and are merry.  I myself and three or four others received 200 lashes in the day, and had our feet in fetters: yet, at night, we would sing and dance, and make others laugh at the rattling of our chains.  Happy men we must have been!  We did it to keep down trouble, and to keep our hearts from being completely broken: this is as true as the gospel!”

Zinn devotes a few chapters to industrialization and the unionist movement.  This could have been a recent quote off the internet, except that it’s from 1895!  “The issue is Socialism verses Capitalism.  I am for Socialism because I am for humanity.  We have been cursed with the reign of gold long enough.  Money constitutes no proper basis for civilization  The time has come to regenerate society. – we are on the eve of a universal Change.”  Eugene Debs, 1895.

In the chapters on recent history, Zinn focuses more on the positive. For instance, some of the families of the September 11, 2001 World Trade Centre victims traveled to Afghanistan to meet Afghan families who had lost loved ones in the American Bombing.  One of the Americans was Rita Lasar, whose brother had died in the attack.  Lasar said that she would devote the rest of her life to working for peace.

Another suggestion for how to change our  perception in the world:

“We are not hated because we practice democracy, value freedom, or uphold human rights.  We are hated because our government denies these things to people in third World countries whose resources are coveted by our multinational corporations.  That hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism. … Instead of sending our sons and daughters around the world to kill Arabs so we can have the oil under their sand, we should send them to rebuild their infrastructure, supply clean water, and feed starving children … In short, we should do good instead of evil.  Who would try to stop us? Who would hate us? Who would want to bomb us?  That is the truth the American people need to hear.” Robert Bowman, former US Air Force Officer, 1998.

A Young People’s History of the United States is written in a simple straightforward style that will appeal to the 12 – 18 age group, but I would also recommend it to anyone interested in reading a snapshot of history from a different perspective.


by Megan Manning – Librarian/Administrator, SWOVA




A Glimmer of Hope among the Chaos – by Lynda Laushway


It is hard not to feel that the world has gone mad when the daily news this week is full of sadness and outrage over the senseless killing of almost 300 passengers on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.  Flip channels and you will hear that the Israelis and Palestinians are bombing and shooting each other relentlessly. Hundreds of lives ended, many of them youth and children, and some of them AIDs researchers and activists. Many bright and promising lives all ended because of violence. I feel sad and I feel hopeless when I see people able to inflict such harm on one another, people who seem able to hold such hatred and malice in their hearts. At the same time as all of this violence and chaos is happening I hear the courageous words of the Canadian father of Andrei Anghel, a promising medical student killed on the plane- even if I had the person who pressed the button that launched the missile here in front of me it would not bring Andrei back. I also see images of Israeli youth ready to embrace Palestinian youth and try to find some peace among them. There are people out there who do not leap to anger and revenge in the face of violence. Finding these glimmers of hope in people with a willingness to try to find peace among the hurt, pain and destruction, is important to me this week.

– Lynda Laushway, SWOVA Executive Director





SWOVA Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow