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International Women Human Rights Defender Day: Honouring Local Organizations

The jade green and mustard yellow illustrated image reads “From Awareness to Accountability, International Women Human Rights Defender Day, #16DaysofActivism”. The VSAC logo is pictured centre bottom.

This is the 5th day of the 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence and the International Women Human Rights Defender Day. Women Human Rights Defenders work to end gender-based violence, reduce stigma of marginalized people, and challenge the root causes of sexualized and racialized violence.

Today, we want to honour some of the amazing activism and action that local organizations on Lekwungen territories are doing to end gender-based violence and defend human rights on these lands.

Sisters Rising

Sisters Rising is a community-based project of Indigenous girls, young women, and youth of all genders speaking back against gendered and sexualized violence through the arts. The Project is based out of the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria. Sisters Rising’s work is leading the way in addressing gender-based violence by supporting Indigenous resurgence and challenging colonization which is at the root of gender-based violence on these territories.

Sisters Rising supports the healing of young people from historical sexualized and gender-based violence. They challenge racialized, gender-based colonial violence by re-centering sovereign Indigenous gender and sexuality knowledges and practices that de-settle the impact of colonial policies in Indigenous communities. Sisters Rising provides arts-based workshops using land-based materials and medicines to honour the connections between body sovereignty and land sovereignty.

Their workshops have included circles with Elders, walks on the land, art and collage-making, tanning hides, working with wool, stone, hide and cedar, digital storytelling, painting, image collages, mask-making, spoken word and traditional felt and beading work.

For more information or to get involved, email Sisters Rising at: 

Peers Victoria Resources Society

Peers Victoria Resources Society is a grassroots organization that was established by and for sex workers in 1995. Through direct service delivery and community partnerships, Peers provides an array of outreach and drop-in harm reduction and support services alongside education and employment training for current and former sex workers. They offer a drop-in centre/wellness clinic, health outreach and support, night outreach, men and trans outreach, a monthly trans workers dinner group, an indoor workers group, a small business training group, community education, housing and community support, as well as violence prevention and response. Peers’ incredible advocacy and activism work in our communities has been invaluable, focusing on empowering sex workers through ‘rights, not rescue’.

We’ve had the privilege of partnering with Peers on a number of projects and multi-year programs over the years. One of these projects that we support is coming up in December: On December 17th at 5:30 pm in Bastion Square there will be a march and evening event at Victoria City Hall to commemorate Red Umbrella Day, an international day to end violence against sex workers and to call for the decriminalization of sex work. This event is a time for sex workers, their allies, and communities to gather together, share food, art, and stories, and to honour sex workers that have lost their lives to violence while calling for an end to this violence.

Aids Vancouver Island Health and Community Services Society

AVI Health and Community Services Society offers a wide range of programs and services out of their offices in Victoria, Langford, Nanaimo, Courtney and Campbell River. They offer a Positive Wellness Program including nutritional and counselling support for people living with HIV and/or Hep C, Harm Reduction Services including safer consumption sites, new supplies, education, counselling, mobile outreach and opiate agonist therapy, and Health Promotion programming targeting the general public, service providers and communities most impacted by HIV, Hep C and substance use.

Their work improves the health, wellbeing and social inclusion of marginalized members of our communities, confronting the harms of stigma and oppression, reducing the spread of HIV/Hep C and preventing overdoses. Last annual cycle, AVI approximated that they supplied 8,915 meals to 468 members of their Positive Wellness Program, distributed 601,362 new needles, distributed 26,693 safer crack pipe kits, collected 613,449 used needles, facilitated 120 trainings for service providers, trained 7,401 people in responding to an opiate overdose with naloxone and rescue breathing, provided 275 people with Opiate Agonist Therapy, hosted 81 testing events and offered 825 peer based educational group sessions. AVI’s incredible harm reduction, wellness, and prevention and education work continues to positively impact the holistic health and wellbeing of folks in our communities.

 

These local organizations are actively defending and upholding the rights of marginalized communities by reducing stigma, centering experiential knowledge and providing resources and care. They are taking action when and where it is needed the most. The Victoria Sexual Assault Centre is grateful for the critical work they do to support our communities and to work towards ending gender-based and colonial violence.