International Human Rights Day

International Human Rights Day

Resisting the Backlash Against Women’s Human Rights

by Ela Esra Gunad

December 10th is International Human Rights Day, a day to bring attention to the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that states each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights which belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values. It was sixty-six years ago that this milestone document in the history of human rights, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), was adopted.

Where are we as a global community at today in terms of the rights of women?

Every day, all over the world, women and girls continue to face violence and abuse in their homes, schools, workplaces, online, and on the streets. Globally one in three women has experienced abuse or subjected to gender-based violence in their lives.  Here in Canada, every six days a woman is killed by her intimate partner. Women are facing this violence simply because they are women. There are currently 1,181 missing and murdered  Indigenous women and girls throughout Canada due to the historical and present day systemic and social oppressive forces.

Throughout history and still today, there has been an ongoing battle on women’s bodies during times of conflict and warIn Rwanda, between 100,000 and 250,000 women were raped during the three months of Rwandan Genocide in 1994. According to the UN agencies, more than 60,000 women were raped during the civil war in Sierra Leone (1991-2002), more than 40,000 in Liberia (1989-2003), up to 60,000 in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1995), and at least 200,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1998. And, the history repeats itself today from Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq to Syria. Even in the absence of conflict or war, being a woman in these regions is being on continual alert of being harmed or killed. It cannot be ignored that during waves of militarization threaten women’s lives all the more.  Women have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, physically abused, harassed, and tortured in ways you may not even want to imagine.

Living free from violence is a human right, yet millions of women and girls face this violence both in times of peace and in war, at the hands of the state, in the home, and in the community. A vast number of women experience forced migration and have to leave their homelands in order to escape gendered systemic violence including gender oppression, gender persecution, political persecution, femicide, war, economic violence, land theft, and the impacts of colonization and globalization. We know through our support and advocacy work at Battered Women’s Support Services, migrant women have always faced structural barriers and there are many inequalities that migrant women face within Canada’s economic, social, legal, and political systems. It is crucial to understand that human rights are linked to each other and these inequalities often deny the basic rights of migrant women and their families. Freedom of movement and residence within any country is a human right, yet migrant women’s lives continue to be threatened by unsafe alternatives that force them to flee their countries, and once they make it into Canada the immigration process makes them even more vulnerable to further violence by the state, by employers, and within their relationships.


Violence is one of the most common causes of homelessness for women and children. Our work on homelessness and violence against women shows that women leave their homes because of physical and/or sexual violence. On any given day in Canada, over 8,200 women and children are living in emergency shelters and transition houses to escape violent partners. Every woman and her children are entitled to safe, affordable, and adequate housing, yet many women face homelessness and/or further violence as a result of that. BWSS works very hard to get women into social housing and we know the demand supersedes the available resources.  One women’s shelter reported turning away eight to ten women per day at both of the shelters it operates. At BWSS we know many women with children will do almost anything to avoid sleeping on the streets out of fear of losing their children. With no place to go and not wanting to lose their children, many women stay in the abusive relationship.

This reality will not change until we each own our role in ending violence and do what is in our power to advocate and act ( activism ) to end gender-based violence. Women around the globe are rising against the pandemic of gender based violence, standing in their power, mobilizing and organizing to end all forms of violence against women and girls. From Indigenous women warriors’ who took to social media with #IAmNotNext campaign to women survivors who are standing in their power and coming forward with #WhyIStayed, #WhyILeft, and #WhyIChooseNowtoTellMyStory hashtags; from women of the Arab Spring who carried their voices far and wide on the winds of revolution to women in Nigeria who started #BringBackOurGirls campaign to demand the return of hundreds of kidnapped Nigerian girls.

As it has been said, ending violence against women and girls remains one of the most crucial social issue to be obtained, since it weakens all other efforts towards a future just society. To come to grips with today’s most prevalent human rights violations in world, we have to work together towards a world in which women are safe and free everywhere from their very own intimate environments to the wider world at all times.

In the past 35 years, BWSS has been working on this frontline to end violence against women and making a positive change in the lives of girls, women, families, and communities.

On this International Human Rights Day, we ask you to take an effective action to stop violence against women. We need you to create a future free from violence for all.

Use your power today to end violence against women by:


Read more about our 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign:

International Day to End Violence Against Women in Canada

Culture Shifts Recognized as Women’s Group Commemorates 35 years of Work to End Violence Against Women

Women’s Leadership for One Future Without Violence

The Dynamics of Power and Control After Separation in Relation to the Family Law Processes

16 Steps for Discovery and Empowerment 

Decolonizing and Healing Through Ceremonies

The Power of Support Groups at BWSS

Volunteering on BWSS Crisis and Intake Line

Wildflower Women of Turtle Island Drum Group

A Space for Every Woman to Grow

If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?


Women’s Worlds 2011 – Why We Liked It? Why It Is Important for Us at Battered Women’s Support Services? by Andrea Canales and Rosa Elena Arteaga

Women’s Worlds 2011

Why we liked it? Why it is important for us at Battered Women’s Support Services?

by Andrea Canales and Rosa Elena Arteaga



Rosa Elena Arteaga

We’re reflecting back on the four days we spent with over 1600 women from across the globe who gathered on unceded Algonquin territory, for Women’s Worlds 2011.   We were eager to take this opportunity to discuss issues affecting women in a global context in addition to raising concerns about the Canadian government’s response to women’s issues; among them violence against women which is the most pressing social issue of our time and one which we are committed to put at the front of the agenda.


We initiated our journey by joining an exclusive welcoming ceremony for Indigenous women; this welcome was an important start to our participation in this conference, as we could not begin our work without being grounded in the reality of Canada’s colonial history. We thank the Algonquin people for their generosity in allowing us to be part of their ceremony and having us in their traditional land.


RosaAndrea (2)

Lee Maracle and Andrea Canales


L to R – Rosa Elena Arteaga, Darla Goodwin (WAVAW) and Andrea Canales

We facilitated our session on the first day of this conference on Breaking Cycles:  Empowering Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant Women Who Experience Violence. Our room was at full capacity thus reflecting the very real need for these discussions and learnings to take place. Participants were appreciative of the comprehensive resources and deemed them “cutting edge”. Workers often feel isolated or lacking the tools to successfully support women and put forward requests for further collaboration and communication.


Battered Women’s Support Services Print Resources for Women and Front-Line Workers

Although women were coming from different parts of the world, the issues where quite similar: colonization, patriarchy, disrespect for the land, globalization, forced migration, and the savaging repercussions of imperialism. Many of the sessions reflected not only the work that we are doing but the pressing need for us to continue our work to end violence against women.


We attended RCMP Accountability?  Review of Yukon’s Police Force workshop which reviewed the case of two RCMP constables were tried and acquitted of sexual assault, Yukon equality-seeking and Aboriginal women’s groups mobilized to demand adequate police accountability. Panellists reported on their coalition-building activities, systemic problems in RCMP responses to male violence against women, racist behaviours, and on their recommendations for national police force change. We compared notes on the increase of arrests of battered women with activists from the Yukon and have committed to collaborating to further our work.  Here’s some of our work on Women Arrests and for Women.  Here’s our blog Women Arrests and Police Complaints:  We Must Remain Vigilant

WW2011- Yukon

RCMP Accountability? Review of Yukon’s Police Force 2010 – My Life Depended On It and recent news about RCMP Misconduct in the Yukon

Lois Moorcroft, Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society, Canada; Corinne McKay, Canada; Ketsia Houde, Les EssentiElles, Canada; Barbara McInerney, Kaushee’s Place, Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society, Canada


On day two we attended a powerful march to Parliament to demand justice for missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, which brought together over 800 conference representatives, alongside media. We took over the main streets of Ottawa, and paralyzed traffic during one of their busiest times of the day. Women of the world came together to make a statement that violence against women, especially violence against Indigenous women, will NOT be tolerated and it must end.  Sadly, Canada’s federal government announced on the same day of the march to Parliament Hill that there would be No Action Plan on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women, further highlighting a distressing contradiction with Canada’s federal government “tough on crime” agenda.


Laura Odjick speaks about her daughter Maisy, who has been missing since 2009




Highlight Reel from Day 2 Women’s Worlds 2011

At the end of the march, we gathered with other Latin American women, who expressed their appreciation at being part of this march.   As, Petronila, an Indigenous woman from Guatemala commented, they are also struggling with the “sanctioned” violence against Indigenous women in one of the largest genocides of modern times, which has left over 100,000 people dead.




Indigenous Feminisms ROCKS


Hayley Moody speaks about “What does Aboriginal Women’s Leadership Mean to Me”?”



Fleshmapping:  Prostitution in a Globalized World (foreground Cherry Smiley and Fay Blaney AWAN)


Day three we attended Fleshmapping, read this Blog by for more info   Featuring daily at Women’s Worlds is the multi-lingual, multi-media exhibit Global Fleshmapping/ Les Draps Parlant/ La Resistencia de Las Mujeres: Prostitution in a Globalized World Fleshmapping incorporated interactive videos, games and 70 used bedsheets as canvasses on which women from across the country have expressed their resistance to prostitution and sex trafficking. On each day of the conference, 16 women from around the world came together in spontaneous, public consciousness-raising discussions about the connections between global trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women in their own areas including women who have left prostitution, front-line workers, academics, community organizers and others.


Storytelling and traditional Nunavut Songs


The plenaries and workshops we attended:

  • Breaking Ceilings in Mixed Organizations: Commonalities in Experiences from Nicaragua, Cuba and Canada
  • Harms of the Pornography Industry: Re-igniting Feminist Resistance
  • Towards Inclusion: Amplifying Women’s Leadership and Voices in the International Development Process
  • Violencia Contra la Mujer: Sexual, Social, Sistémico
  • Flesh Mapping: Prostitution in a Globalized World
  • RCMP Accountability? Review of Yukon’s Police Force 2010
  • Where is the Love? RE/thinking Feminist Workplaces
  • Challenges and Possibilities of Transnational and Cross-Cultural Feminist Self-Making
  • Importance of the Seal for Inuit Women
  • Addressing Sexual Violence with Young Women of Colour and Immigrant/Refugee Girls
  • Storytelling and traditional Nunavut Songs
  • Developing Leadership in a New Generation of Women of an Invisible Minority

A Global Team

The energy was vibrant throughout this gathering, as women felt a strong need to come together and make others witness of the issues that are affecting women in their countries. We leave with hope knowing that there are women everywhere, scholars, community organizers, food growers, writers, artists, mothers, daughters and grandmothers who have and will continue the fight against violence against women, for gender equality, for justice for all and who are moved by the hope to change the world for future generations. To these women we say thank you for their determination and for the reminder that we CAN and WILL make a change and that we are not alone. Thank you for being our witness.

We, here at Battered Women’s Support Services, will continue our hard work of ending violence against women; we are re-energized by the awareness that what we are doing is working and that we have a global team to collaborate and hope with.

We are grateful for the financial support from The Law Foundation of BC and Women’s Worlds 2011 for making our attendance possible

Commission on the Status of Women: "Girls are the most crucial constituents for change"

In the Fifty-fifth Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, it was agreed that although girls suffer severe gender discrimination and abuse, they remain “Crucial Constituents for Change”

Read more about this session’s conclusions, including the assertion that “more be done by States and communities to ensure stronger penalties for perpetrators and legal recourse for victims,” here.

International Day for the Elimination of Racism

Battered Women’s Support Services will march in the International Day for the Elimination of Racism on Sunday, March 20th in downtown Vancouver-Coast Salish Territories. We will be marching alongside community members coming together to commemorate the struggle and strength of Indigenous and racialized people while we continue our fight against all forms of oppression.

The march will begin from the Waterfront Skytrain Station at 2:00 pm.

For more information, click here.

Housing activists to hold rally at noon

One year after the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the Olympic Village is a ghost town. While developers and marketers try many different tricks to recoup tax-payer’s money, housing activists want the promise of social housing delivered. At noon on Saturday, they held a  Housing Rally, calling for safe, affordable housing within the empty units at the Olympic Village and beyond.

Read about the housing crisis in Vancouver here and here.

Read about the empty Olympic Village here.

Read more about the rally and tent village here.

UPDATE: Protesters were ordered off of the property in the Olympic Village by VPD, 10 were arrested and released without charges, read more here.