First Day WHRI

by Jewelles Smith / 05.21.2012

Today was the first day of the Women’s Human Rights: Building a Peaceful World in an Era of Globalization Six-week Women’s Human Rights Education Institute (WHRI). What an amazing group of women! Unfortunately, a couple of women have not made it yet or will not be making it due to VISA application problems–shame on governments for preventing or causing delay in accessing VISA’s, especially for something as important as a Women’s Human Rights Institute!

We watched the NFB documentary “Finding Dawn“. First, there were so many people that I know on this film, and all the walks/marches I have been on were portrayed so strongly. I recall walking on the 20th anniversary march in Vancouver, holding one part of the endless quilt sections naming a missing or murdered woman. I have memories when I was young, and newly on my own, and sometimes homeless hitchhiking on the highway of tears–I had no idea of the danger, as all youth, I was invincible. Women on the film speaking of their experience of poverty and of being First Nation’s–one woman, Janice Acoos, said: “The violence, it has to stop, it has to stop, it has to stop, it has to stop…and I realized, in my family, it has to stop with me.” I know these thoughts.

the woman, of whom it was said, “she was no stranger to controversy.” and “stopping violence is everyone’s responsibility.” I hear and have taken up the same calling. this is exactly why I became an activist. and why I have taught my sons about activism and about speaking out at injustices.

It is absolutely essential to bear witness to the stories of each of our sisters who has walked through the violence, the homelessness, the street work, the loss of loved ones. It is imperative that we heal and end these cycles. It is crucial that we raise our young women to be strong warrior women and that we raise our young men to respect and honour their sisters, mothers, daughters, lovers. We must stop this violence against women.

Tonight I am left to ponder what great ancestor, mentor, woman that has influenced my life will I choose to speak of in this group. I just finished reading the legal case of Lavell vs Canada (Attorney Genereal) [1974] S.C.R. 1349. So much to think on this case to challenge the law that prevents aboriginal women from maintaining their status if they married a white/non-aboriginal spouse. My thoughts are still simmering so I will try to address this after tomorrow’s class.

In my final notes, the situation at the residence has not been the most enjoyable, however, the university staff (Angela and Alda in particular) were warriors on my behalf in my exhausted state. I am now in a much better room and building. Tomorrow I will get a fridge to store my food in (so as to prevent cross contamination and potential allergic reactions). I continue to take the maximum of my allergy and asthma meds and after a rough day, I have gone onto the prednisone that my doctor in BC provided. Until my foot heals from the glass accident (cut by glass, tendons severed, nerve damage) I am slow to get around, but everyone has been so helpful including Jess and her partner who drove me and my bags to my new residence. I am hoping to post photos as they come, I am still making certain that no one objects and that if there are participants of the course who do not wish to have their pictures posted, I will not.

Good night and tomorrow is another day.

“In a Gentle way, you can shake the world.” Gandhi.