WomenatthecentrE Remembers

On the evening of December 6, WomenatthecentrE held an event to remember the 14 young women who were murdered 21 years ago at École Polytechnique, as well as all of those who have lost their lives because of gendered violence.

We began by holding a memorial procession where those gathered placed a flower in honour of the 14 women, and a 15th every other woman. Those who participated in the lily procession included Dr. Robin Mason of Women’s College Hospital, Marsha Sfiers of Springtide Resources, and a number of WomenatthecentrE Board and External Liaison Committee members.

A short video was played, featuring members of the first provincial chapter of WomenatthecentrE based in York Region, in which they courageously shared their experiences and lessons learned. Board Director Svetlana Vigor spoke eloquently about her own experiences and why she got involved with the organization.

Following the video, the audience engaged in an open dialogue about the challenges that communities still face, and the positive role men could and should play in the eradication of violence against women.

Thank you to all who attended and participated, and special thanks to WomenatthecentrE member Julia Goldy for her delicious baked goods!

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Nneka is an advocate who works with government and other organizations to eradicate violence against women. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Centre for Social Justice, also known as the WomenatthecentrE, our unique non-profit organization that was created for women survivors of gender-based violence, by women survivors. Nneka develops and delivers training to various agencies and organizations that promotes better understanding of the issues, and focuses on personal and political advocacy for women survivors, as well as on ways to engage men and boys in the initiatives to eradicate violence against women.

"It’s critical that those with the lived experience be the ones at the centre of social policy and reform. We must leave the shame behind and focus on ways to empower ourselves, our children … our society as a whole, to understand that violence against women, in any shape or form, is not acceptable. So we use our personal tragedies as a way to change the world – for the better."

Shelleena is a graduate of the University of Guelph where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree, focusing on Sociology; she then attended Ryerson University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work and continued on to receive her Masters of Social Work. Shelleena has completed research in feminist parenting and transracial foster placements, as well as aided in research on the intersection of Indigenous communities and IPV. She is currently completing research around sexual violence and justice.

Shelleena has over 10 years’ experience working in Mental Health and she continues to expand her knowledge. She identifies as a transfeminist, pansexual woman and is an avid advocate for notably queer and trans communities and the environment.

When she is not working with incredibly empowering comrades and advocates, she enjoys backpacking and travelling to other countries while learning about different places and enjoying new experiences and food.

Nicole is currently a Master of Social Work (MSW) student at Ryerson University completing her practicum with WomenatthecentrE. Her work includes community development, policy analysis, and advocacy work in the areas of gender-based violence, mental health and addictions, and homelessness. Nicole was recently introduced to art as a tool for resistance and social change, which has inspired her to incorporate photography into her current major researcher paper (MRP) on embodied representations of women’s resistance and strength within the context of gendered violence.

“It is imperative to not only recognize and understand the multiple, intersecting systems that oppress women, but it is equally, if not more important to highlight the ways in which women resist oppression. We need to centre strategies of resistance to create opportunities for survivors to confidently exercise power in ways that shift how people, including themselves, think about violence against women.”

Karia is currently at Ryerson University completing her Masters of Social Work (MSW). She is conducting research on the impacts of violence and trauma on the mental health of Black Canadians. She works with women, children, youth, those experiencing homelessness, and various marginalized populations.

"We are all swimming in shit, smell yourself before you smell someone else."

Shirley is a Registered Nurse. She has a Masters in Education, in Psychology and Community Development from the University of Toronto. For over fourteen years, she contributed to the care of survivors of interpersonal violence in her position as Manager of the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Care Centre in Scarborough. She was presented with the Community Service Award by the Ontario Medical Association in 2010.

Prior to this she worked with the perpetrators of sexual violence in partnership with the forensic treatment community, assessing and monitoring offenders reintegration into the community.

Janet is a social worker, a survivor of gender based violence, and an advocate for social justice. She holds a diploma in Child and Youth Work with Honours from Humber College. Janet also holds a Bachelor of Social Work from York University and is currently a candidate for Master of Social Work from York University, ready to defend her dissertation on Anti-black Racism and Canadian Child Welfare.

“Once you know a thing, you can't unknow it.”

Amanda is currently completing her Bachelor of Social Work at Ryerson University. Within her studies, she is particularly interested in examining the intersections of fatness and gender; the impacts of familial and intimate-partner violence; and the ways in which dominant power structures such as Whiteness, sexism, and heteronormativity are enacted through our current legal system.

“The word ‘survivor’ is more than an individual identity. It is a political term. Although at times we may feel like victims, what should be highlighted is our continued, collective survival. This isn’t about one woman, it is about all of us, as survivors, taking up an identity of empowerment.”