Today launches International Women’s Week; and for the next week we will join women across the world to celebrate women’s equality rights victories.  Can we all agree that the struggle for women’s liberation throughout the world is certainly not finished? Women and girls still face enormous oppression, poverty and violence both across the world and here in Canada.


International Women’s Day calls us to challenge the issues that deny women’s human rights, while celebrating those women who have won gains in the past and also those who continue to move us forward today.


Women continue to be more likely than men to have low-paid, low-status and vulnerable jobs, with limited or no social protection or basic rights. A very high proportion of women in the labour force continue to work in unstable and exploitative employment.


Serious challenges persist to women’s full and equal participation in senior decision-making positions. These include negative stereotypes about women’s leadership roles and women’s potential to be successful as leaders.


Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic, with up to 70 per cent of women experiencing violence in their lifetime.  The problem remains universal, with women and girls affected by violence in every region and every country.


Over the upcoming week, I am challenging each of you to take a personal pledge to work toward abolishing the poverty, violence, and racism that have and continue to destroy the lives of countless women.


Today, presents a wonderful opportunity to ask each of you if you are aware that Women’s Crisis Services will be rebuilding Haven House, its Cambridge shelter?


We have located an ideal parcel of land on Acorn Way and Elgin Street in Cambridge.  It is close to amenities; such as a bus route, shopping, schools, churches, etc.  This location will house the new Haven House; as our current facility on Concession Road in Cambridge is no longer adequate.  Women are now sharing bedrooms, washrooms and eating meals in shifts as a result of lack of space.  We have few program and meeting spaces.  Further, women do not have their own private entrance, which compromises their privacy; at a time when they are in crisis.  Our facility is intended to provide a “home away from home” for abused women and their children, therefore, we need to do better; we need to rebuild a more appropriate facility.


And how many of you are aware of the opposition that the Cambridge neighbours have voiced?

For those unaware, the neighbours are claiming there will be increased criminal activity and drug use in their neighbourhood.   They have clearly articulated the “not in my back yard” phenomena.  The voices being heard from the neighbourhood are primarily female. 


For us at Women’s Crisis Services, this is extremely disappointing on a number of levels and clearly depicts their lack of knowledge about abuse and violence against women, the services we provide and also the facilities we operate.


Our shelters, Anselma House in Kitchener and Haven House in Cambridge provide safety, education, support, counseling and advocacy for women and their children who are in the process of leaving abusive intimate partner relationships.


Violence against women is rooted in the belief that women deserve less social power and it is therefore acceptable – and for some abusers, even necessary – to exert power over them.


Gender inequality creates a rationale for humiliation, intimidation, control, abuse, and even murder.   In this context, it becomes easier for a man to believe that he has the right to be in charge and to control a woman, even if it requires abuse or violence.


To help the neighbours understand and encourage them to embrace our project, we are planning an information session for the neighbourhood on April 8.  We want them to embrace our project and our presence in their community.


As one in ten women experience abuse or violence in their lifetime, we know for a fact that domestic violence is already in the neighbourhood of the Cambridge residents who are opposing our presence. These people have failed to acknowledge the issues inherent in their own community.


Each of us, already does, or at some time will, know someone affected by domestic violence.  It may be our daughters, nieces, sisters, friends, aunts, mothers, work colleagues or neighbours.  Or it may be one of us. But undoubtedly, each of us will be impacted.


Without Women’s Crisis Services, each year, hundreds of abused women and their children would be forced to remain in abusive homes.  On every level imaginable, this is unacceptable.


So over the upcoming months, I will continue to reach out to you, our supporters, as we combine our energies with passion and conviction to move the new Haven House project forward.  And we will do this – all in the best interests of the abused women and children in our Region. 


We at Women’s Crisis Services strongly believe that every women and child has the right to live a life free of abuse and violence.  Do you believe?


If so, then help Women’s Crisis Services spread the word – ‘like’ us on Facebook, contact us on Twitter, read our blogs, offer your support – and know that together we will successfully help abused women and their children “Move Beyond Violence.”


By: Mary Zilney

CEO, Women’s Crisis Services