Island community rallies against gender violence and promote self-care and healing

LITTLE CURRENT—There was overwhelming participation and support for the Women’s Wellness Day and One Billion and Rising for Justice events that were held by the M’Nidoo Minissing Coalition Against Domestic Violence last Wednesday in Little Current in honour of International Women’s Day.

Organizers reported that there were over 70 participants at the Women’s Wellness Day and over 125 individuals in attendance at the One Billion and Rising for Justice event that followed later that evening.

The Women’s Wellness Day was a focus on self-care and healing with yoga, a catered lunch, guest speaker and workshops.

After breakfast, a morning yoga session and an opportunity to explore the vendor marketplace, guest speaker Tammy Albers bravely shared her personal story of gender violence.

“It is a really wonderful day and we are so lucky to be here in a country where we can have a day like this because in many, it would be illegal,” began Ms. Albers.

Ms. Albers went on to share how she had been a victim of sexual violence as a child and how the experience shaped her life.

“I am a survivor, not a victim,” said Ms. Albers. “Not everyone gets through what I did alive.”

When asked, she explained that she speaks about what happened to her as a way to turn something terrible into something that might help someone else.

“When I was 18-years-old I was finally encouraged to get help,” Ms. Albers said. “After that, I started volunteering with rape support groups and from there I eventually started speaking to youth and various groups.”

Ms. Albers’ story also encouraged a woman in the audience to step forward and share her story.

After Ms. Albers’ presentation, lunch was served by caterers the Main Street Café before participants went into workshops for the afternoon.

Workshops included healthy cooking from Kris Leblanc, assisted by Doryell Nodecker, traditional water teaching with Barb Peltier, yoga with Guinevere Joy and beading with Sophie Pheasant-Jones of Mo’Lovely.

Throughout the day, individuals could also participate in the Clothesline Project—a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt, which they then hang on a clothesline to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against women.

The One Billion and Rising for Justice event held later Wednesday evening including singing, hula hooping, Zumba and drumming. Many of the performances were interactive with great participation from those in attendance.

One Billion Rising For Justice is a global movement that encourages “women survivors of violence and those who love them to gather safely in communities and break the silence and release their stories—politically, spiritually, outrageously—through art, dance, marches, ritual, song, spoken word, testimonies and whatever way feels right,” states the organization’s website.

“The events this past week were about bringing community members together from across Manitoulin Island and the North Shore to not only raise awareness about violence against women and children but also provide participants with resources in the community so that they know where to turn if they are or have been affected by violence,” said Executive Director of Manitoulin Northshore Victim Services, and one of the organizers of the event, Ashley Jewell. “On Women’s Wellness Day, we celebrated International Women’s Day by providing women with the opportunity to come together in a safe environment to participate in workshops about self care and healing. Women’s Wellness Day was followed by One Billion Rising. This event provided an opportunity to speak out about violence against women and girls and also to sing, dance, drum and advocate together! On behalf of the coalition I would like to thank everyone who attended and supported these events—we could not have asked for a better turn out.”

Robin Burridge