TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TOWARDS WORKING WITH ATIRA and women in the community.
I work as one of the Outreach Workers for the Waaban Outreach Program for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Women. I started in this position and at Atira in December 2020. I have absolutely enjoyed and learn a lot from my experience on the frontlines, as this is my first every front line/outreach job ever!
I think that one of the things that I was really surprised about was just how broken all the systems are, especially when it comes to support for First Nations, Métis and Inuit women. I read & studied about it when I was in college, but to actually hear women’s stories and see how the systems don’t work for people really put it into perspective for me and showed me how important advocacy truly is.
It really is incredible to see the difference of attitudes and helpfulness of workers, doctors, and management there is an advocate with them/showing up alongside the woman. My experience in the last year and a half reminds me every day how grateful I am for the childhood I had, and how that anything can happen to anyone and you could end up in a situation/environment you never thought you’d ever be in.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE, TELL US HOW YOU SEE VIOLENCE PRESENTS ITSELF IN THE EVERYDAY LIVES OF WOMEN ACCESSING OUR SERVICES.
I’ve realized that violence can present itself in many ways, and it’s not always how we think it is. I think one of the biggest ways I’ve seen violence present itself has been the risk of homelessness for so many of the women who access Waaban. Without safe and secure housing, it’s extremely difficult to be able to focus on anything (i.e. work, school, treatment etc.) So many of the women we work with feel they can’t move forward with other things if they are at risk of being on the street. Shelter is a basic human need and when that need isn’t being met, women are automatically in a more vulnerable state.
Waaban helps prevent violence against women by offering advocacy and emotional and cultural support, such as healing circles, talking and drumming circles, cultural crafts, meals, and through the sharing and learning of cultural stories and teachings. We are also able to take crisis calls from women and help get them out of the violent situation they are facing. This type of support can include going to pick them up, potentially bringing them back to the office, give them a chance to relax and eat, figure out what they require to meet their needs, and then try to provide or refer them to that kind of support. Often times, this can be anything from calling around for bed spaces at a shelter, where we would then drive the woman to and personally ensure she feels safe in the space before we go elsewhere.
Investing and building trusting and reciprocal meaningful connections with women from the community has helped folks open up to receiving support from staff, which ultimately can include finding safe and secure housing for them and their families. One of the first examples I saw in this job of successful support was meeting a single mom and her two kids, I was driving them to a couple house viewings. The family had been living in a transition house for over a month due to an injury from a car accident.
The first two viewings didn’t go very well and we were feeling fairly dejected going to the last suite. The landlords ended up really liking the family and offering them the suite on the spot! There was even a huge backyard and basketball hoop that her kids were allowed to use. As we were leaving the mom gave me and my co-worker the biggest hug and I could physically see so much stress be lifted from her body and spirit. The family then came to our office to pick up their Christmas presents and it was so sweet talking to them and how happy they were. Even though I was only driving them around it really showed me how important kindness and the kind of work/support that Atira is able to provide.
WHAT CALL-TO-ACTION DO YOU HAVE TO SHARE TO THE COMMUNITY TO PREVENT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN?
I encourage people to advocate for First Nations, Métis and Inuit women. Indigenous women are matriarchs, and matriarchs are astounding leaders. Indigenous women are some of the most resilient, kind, and strong people I have ever met, and are the population that is so cruelly forgotten about. Indigenous women are five times more likely to experience murder and are 20 times more likely to be murdered than any other ‘Canadian’. I encourage people to go research what traditional lands they’re on, and look to find resources there are for Indigenous women in their area, and see what ways they can support us!
Waaban Outreach Worker
Waaban Outreach for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Women
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