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 Rabble.ca 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

Women’s Worlds 2011–Breaking the Cycles of Violence Against Women

Women’s Worlds 2011

Breaking the Cycles

of Violence Against Women

The first Women’s Worlds Congress was held in 1981 at Haifa University.  Billed as the first world-wide inter-disciplinary gathering to focus on research pertaining to women’s issues open to researchers and activists.  Taking place every three years in different parts of the world, Ottawa-Gatineau is the location of the 11th Women’s World, this year a global convergence of 1,600 women from July 3 to July 7 to examine what it means for women to live in a globalized world and Battered Women’s Support Services is there.

Today’s theme, Breaking Cycles discussed during the morning plenary spoke to us, well, Andrea Smith, spoke to our collective spirit of activism.   Andrea Smith, one or our favourite feminist thinkers and anti-violence activists from the Cherokee nation, Andrea has garnered international respect for her advocacy on violence against women of colour, specifically Native American women. Co-founder of “INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence“, Andrea currently teaches in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside.

“…the government informed us yesterday that they are going to fix the problem of violence against Indigenous women…To do that they’d have to dismantle themselves”  said Andrea and her words reminded us of the day previously when Status of Women Canada Minister Rona Ambrose, was booed during her welcoming address.  Imagine that, the Minister of the Status of Women Canada, the primary funder of Women’s Worlds 2011 was booed.   A revealing moment where it was clear that women have watched the dismantling of women’s equality in Canada for several years now.  As we wrote on Mother’s Day 2011:

In 2006, Canada placed 14th out of 115 countries in terms of the World Forum’s “gender-gap index” – a complex calculation that takes account of wages, education, health and political power. In 2009, Canada had slipped to 25th place. Further, the phrase “gender equality” has been eliminated from the mandate of Canada’s primary institution responsible for gender equality in Canada: Status of Women; and while the word equality was re-introduced to the mandate, the spirit of equality has not been re-established. With the closure of twelve of sixteen Status of Women offices we are coming from behind in our efforts now to redress and achieve equality.

The current situation, sees Canada facing a national tragedy of 582 missing and murdered Aboriginal Women and eliminating funding to Sisters In Spirit. Women are facing proposed changes to Immigration where Sponsorship conditions would jeopardize Immigrant women’s safety and women fleeing to Canada due to Gender Persecution. Over the years we have witnessed the dismantling of the social safety net that would assist to level the playing field for women as represented in this List of Women’s Organizations That Have Had Funding Cut by the Federal Government. And don’t get us started about federal, territorial, provincial Justice Ministers and their funding decisions related to missing and murdered Indigenous women.

And it is within this challenging context that we do our work at Battered Women’s Support Services, where last year we responded to over 9,500 direct service requests.  When we went to Women’s Worlds 2011 we went to say that violence against women is the most pressing social issue of our time.  We went to Women’s Worlds 2011 to ask and answer the question what would it take to end violence against women?

Rosa Elena Arteaga (below) at the registration table on Sunday



Andrea Canales (above) lining up to register for Women’s Worlds 2011 on Sunday


At our Vancouver office, we about 25% of the women who access our services are Aboriginal women and about 52% are Non Status, Refugee or Immigrant Women (NSRIW).  In 2006, 51% of Vancouver’s total population identified as Immigrant and increase from 49% in 2001 and 44.8% in 1996 (City of Vancouver, 2009). The immigration of racialized people from “developing” countries is regulated and influenced by the historical development of Canada as a colonized capitalist country. Principally, the entry of poor and racialized Immigrants has been determined by Canadian’s labour need. The class and racial bias of the history of Canada can be clearly shown through its immigration policies. Poor people and racialized people are only allowed into Canada to fulfill the country’s needs for cheap labour.  For more about immigration and violence against women see our manual.

Our presentation today at Women’s World 2011 was to name and take on the various systems of oppression that persist as cycles around the world, colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism that grind down in the individual lives of women who access our services everyday that trace a woman through her life cycle as illustrated by Spiral of Gender Violence and to provide practical tools for front-line workers to support women who are living with violence.

Spiral of Gender Violence

Microsoft Word - LifetimeSpiral-HANDOUT-2007.docThe Lifetime Spiral is designed by Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence (2007)

Gender oppression follows girls and women through infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and as elders.  Violence against women in intimate relationships is one of the many forms of violence against women and it is experienced in the context of additional oppressions based on colonialization, migration, immigration/refugee status, race, ethnicity, age, type of labour performed, access to/level of education, class, ability/disability and sexual orientation.  We illustrate the layers and barriers experienced by women through our version of the power and control wheel for Immigrant and Refugee women.

Immigrant and Refugee Power and Control Wheel


We recognize that it is of critical importance to identify the historic, legal, attitudinal and behavioural discrimination women experience that is embedded in mainstream Canadian culture and within Immigrant communities.  Women internalize our oppression in order to make sense of the our family, our community and the world around us.   Internalized oppression is one reason for the following graph illustrating percentages of women aged 15-49 who think that a husband/partner is justified in hitting or beating his wife/partner:




We had an incredible turn out for our presentation on Empowering Non Status, Refugee, and Immigrant Women, today.  And we are honoured to contribute to Women’s Worlds 2011, the largest ever feminist gathering in Canadian history. Women from all over the world came together to learn and enhance their knowledge violence against women, both in general and specifically on how to support and empower NSRIW, from a women-centred, an anti-oppression, feminist perspective that comes from a desire to end oppression at a personal and social level.

This is Rosa Elena Arteaga, front-line worker at Battered Women’s Support Services and she led the presentation with Andrea Canales, front-line worker, behind the camera.



Our approach at Battered Women’s Support  Services is to address the individual, relational, legal, community and society factors.  We focus on raising awareness about the complex prevalence of violence against women and the damaging impact of intimate partner violence on Non-status, Refugee and Immigrant women, their children, their family and their community and through that we are identifying the root causes of violence the various tactics of power and control, the devaluation of women, the lack of accountability of men who use abuse and violence, and the complicity of communities both mainstream and Immigrant.  Here’s our recent blog post on The Role of Men in Ending Violence Against Women from our presentation at the Canadian Council For Refugees Spring Consultation 2011 held in Hamilton, Ontario.


Participants, today, shared that they were thrilled with BWSS emphasis on advocacy work, approach and practices. Print resources were disseminated among all of the participants who expressed a deep appreciation for all of the work accomplish thus far. Women commented on the difficulty of doing this work and of feeling validated to have an organization leading the way in supporting NSRIW. Participants were impressed on the work being done with Non Status and Refugee women, as usually these two groups are at the fringes and mainstream organizations do not address their real needs or even serve them.



Advocacy – A Strategy of Empowerment

The overwhelming statistics relating to violence against women is evidence of the social and political inequality that women experience. Power and control are understood to be at root of violence against women, empowerment of NSRIW survivors is at the heart of intervention and sharing power through advocacy at the centre of any intervention.

At the core of the concept of empowerment is the idea of power. Power is often understood and related to our ability to have influence over people, regardless of their own desires or wishes. Through our work at Battered Women’s Support Services we have found that empowerment as a process of change has been effective.

As another participant, a researcher from Taiwan, commented: “I got a lot of information and I have become aware that the dynamics of abuse are the same everywhere, but I have just learned more effective ways to support women who experienced abuse. Advocacy is the key as a strategy of empowerment”



Participants had access to our print resources that synthesize theory and practice. As one woman said: “I am an Executive Director at a transition house in Toronto and I already had loads of information about the issues affecting NSRIW; however, these resources would be extremely helpful for my staff and I’ll readily be sharing them with all our staff.”

Here’s the online version of Empowering Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant Women Who Experience Violence, Women Making Waves Publication, and a few other relevant Battered Women’s Support Services Resources and Publications .


Finally, one of our youngest participants, whose mother had worked at a transition house, commented on how appreciative she was of being part of the workshop and receiving the information, which she plans to bring to her mother, while re-emphasizing what we had shared regarding how “abuse is not cultural, patriarchy is, and we must stop using culture as an excuse and explanation for abuse.”

We have promised at least one more instalment of our blog series for Women’s Worlds 2011…it will be done some how, some way…

Battered Women’s Support Services is grateful for the financial support of Women’s World 2011 and The Law Foundation of BC for making our appearance at Women’s Worlds 2011 possible.