By Jewelles Smith
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a celebration of women, peace and human rights. This year, Status of Women Canada has declared the theme for March 8 – Working Together: Engaging Men to End Violence against Women. IWD was first celebrated in 1975 during the United Nation’s International Women’s Year. All this week and next (March 4 – 15), organizations are gathering in New York, at the United Nations headquarters for the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/57sess.htm).
According to UN Women, IWD actually emerged out of labour movement activities across North America and Europe during the twentieth century. Today, these beginnings resonate strongly with women around the globe in both developing and so-called developed countries, where women still struggle to earn a livable wage, work in safe environments, and support their families. Women’s organizations strive for equality and safety of women in all aspects of private, public and political life. Drawing attention to and supporting our community resources is crucial to ensure that all women have access to a safe space and that both men and women know where to turn for assistance and support.
Revelstoke Women’s Shelter is one of those local resources. The shelter provides services to women and their children at risk of abuse, including temporary housing. The shelter has ten beds, five of which receive regular funding; the other five require year round fundraising efforts to sustain. In one year they may house nearly one hundred women plus their children. Too often, the shelter is over capacity, in fact, in one year alone, the shelter was over capacity 105 times. Although temporary housing is one aspect of the shelter, they do so much more for women in our community, including: running a 24 hour crisis line, providing individual and group support, engaging in advocacy and outreach support, and providing referrals to legal and social agencies.
At the opening of this article, I drew attention to Canada’s theme this year for IWD: Working Together: Engaging Men to End Violence against Women. As a mother of two boys, as a sister of two brothers, as a friend — my passion is to engage men in the fight to eliminate violence against women and build a world where men and women of all backgrounds have equal opportunities and feel safe in their communities. One way that men can show their support of women is to join the White Ribbon Campaign (www.whiteribbon.ca). This campaign began in 1991, men were asked to wear a white ribbon as “a pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.” Men and boys can stand up wherever they are in the support of women and girls’ right to feel safe at home, at school, at work, and in the community.
Women will never be free of violence until all members of our society stand up against violence against women. The power of one voice speaking up can never be underestimated. On March 8, take time to celebrate the many women in our community.
If you are in need of support or information; please do not hesitate to call the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter Crisis line at 250-837-1111.