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Internet unites global community to be ‘bold for change’

Tamarack Verrall invited participants at Picton’s International Women’s Day to pose for a photo to share online in support of WorldPulse.com

The idea that every single woman on the planet matters – and needs to be heard – was the focus of an International Women’s Day gathering in Picton on Wednesday.

“Every woman and every girl matters,” said long-time feminist Tamarack Verrall, who travelled from her home in Montreal to share her connection to women who are rising globally, connected on the internet, through WorldPulse.

“After all these years, women’s centres across the country are providing the kind of support that women still, unfortunately, need desperately because we have not managed to end violence against women in this country,” said Verrall. “Women took to the streets in Halifax last night because a woman tried to take herself safely home in a taxi and ended up raped.” The acquittal of the taxi driver accused has sparked debate about the laws of consent since the judge drew public fire for stating “clearly, a drunk can consent.”

“We have a long way to go and sometimes I have been so discouraged because we thought that by the 1980s we’d have it done,” said Verrall. “It doesn’t take any kind of brain to know that we deserve a life without violence and we’re tired of that one in three statistic. I believe that every women on the planet has had something happen to us at one point in their life that we should never have had to experience.”

She told the group gathered above Books & Company in Picton that she is more hopeful due to “occasions like this where we come together and remind each other that this is important,” and a discovery that lifted her spirits – a global women’s movement called worldpulse.com

While the heart of the movement is online, Verrall explained its impact goes beyond borders and boundaries to unite and empower women.

“Anyone can go on the site and read the stories pouring in from around the world from 27,000 women, and some men. The website is built on women sharing stories of what’s happened to us, and what we are hearing from others and doing about it, and what needs to be done. We’re in discussion.”

Some of the stories, Verrall said, “are hard to take,” but encouraging when they result in change.

She told of breast ironing in Cameroon, a major issue where women so afraid that their daughter’s puberty is going to show, that they iron their breasts with hot rocks to retard the growth, and visibility of their breasts so they might have two more years before they’re seen as young adults, and are raped.

Through WorldPulse, Chi Yvonne Leina spoke out about the harmful practise of breast ironing that affects three to four million girls in Cameroon. Her stories about the tradition made headlines around the world and she launched a national campaign resulting in more than 30,000 women and girls vowing to end the practice.

Verrall also spoke of Urmila Chanam, who has reached thousands of girls in India to help break the stigma around menstruation as 23 per cent of girls drop out of school when they get their first period.

And she told of Kirthi, a victim of violence, who is building a mobile app to provide a map of emergency and educational resources for women who have just experienced violence. Her work is being accelerated by funds and support from the website.

“What I’m hearing from the sisters on the other side of the world is not, ‘oh things take time; oh but it’s tradition’. No. They’re saying ‘We want nothing more of this, not our girls;’ … The work being done and the courage is incredible.”

Verral said the top issues are that every girl has a right to be in school, no more forced marriages, no more rape and abuse, no more trafficking of girls into the sex trade and no more breast ironing.

“I encourage you to go to the website to read their stories, repeat their stories and become a listener, or encourager, by dedicating two or three hours a week to volunteer to respond to stories that don’t have anyone responding yet. It’s not to give advice, but for encouragement, to say ‘wow, I am so happy to read that…. what amazing work you are doing.'”

Visit www.worldpulse.com

“We were pleased to welcome two speakers today to share their knowledge and insights, fitting well with this year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme of ‘Be Bold for Change,” said organizer Christine Renaud, of Alternatives for Women, an organization based in Picton that provides counselling and help, free of charge, for women in abusive relationships.

Carol Laveque, left, speaks about the Faceless Dolls, held up by Christine Renaud

Carol Laveque, of the Tyendinaga Native Women’s Association, who spoke about missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.

She explained ‘Sisters in Spirit’, a research and education policy initiative driven and led by indigenous women with a goal to conduct research and raise awareness of alarmingly high rates of violence. Over the years, the SIS developed a database of missing or murdered indigenous women.

She also spoke about the annual Sisters in Spirit candlelight vigils held every year on October 4 connecting family members, aboriginal communities and concerned citizens to honour the memory of the women and girls.

She shared two Faceless Dolls Project boards explaining the faceless felt dolls were created as a travelling exhibit in memory of more than 600 missing and murdered women and girls in Canada.

For more, visit https://www.nwac.ca/policy-areas/violence-prevention-and-safety/sisters-in-spirit/

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