Sisterhood conference: tears, songs and determination

"There was so many highlights I don't know just where to begin," Carol Meyer.

 

Ottawa (11 October 2006) - As the delegates to the National Union's conference "Building International Sisterhood" returned to their jobs and daily struggles, they take with them a shared commitment to action on global issues.

The conference brought together an exceptional group of women as participants, facilitators and presenters. They cried, laughed and sang together while working on some of the most serious issues facing women globally.

"There was so many highlights I don't know just where to begin," said Carol Meyer, Managing Director, NUPGE.

"Heather Mallick challenged us to focus on what unites us in our struggles and not on the small differences that divide us. The presentation by Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik was so powerful that I am sure that there wasn't a dry eye in the house during most of it."

Conference organizer Marie Bean has her own highlights.

"I found the presentations on Colombia by Ligia Alzate, and Annie Geron of the Philippines completely inspirational. These women are on the frontlines, often risking their lives, in the struggle for peace, justice and equality."

"And they manage to still laugh and love in the midst of it all."

Bean also mentioned the Aboriginal Cultural Evening "it was truly a fabulous evening. Elder Irene Lindsay, Everywoman's Drum, the dancer lifted our spirits. President Beverly Jacobs, Native Women's Association of Canada, reminded us of the importance of paying attention to problems in our own backyards."

And everyone remembers the songs that were written during the workshops.

"We asked people to rewrite the lyrics of a familiar song to reflect their discussion during the workshop," explains Meyer.

"I can only say that the creativity of our participants completely knocked me out. The sisters were GREAT!"

Concrete measures taken

At the welcoming social during the opening evening National President James Clancy announced that the National Union is putting action behind their commitment to Building International Solidarity.

"We have to move beyond talk to action. Our conference speakers have identified important projects in their communities that we can work together on. We are taking up the invitation," said Clancy. NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees will be providing support to the following projects in Canada, Colombia, Lesotho and the Philippines.

Working with our Advisory Committee on Women’s Issues, the National Union will provide:

  • Funding and research on attaining additional funding;
  • Letters of support; and
  • Web updates for the membership.

Canada's Aboriginal Women

Sisters in Spirit campaign was launched in March 2004, in response to alarmingly high levels of violence against Aboriginal women in Canada. In preparation for its March 2004-March 2005 campaign, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) issued a national call for information about women who have been lost to violence (or suspected violence). Based on this anecdotal evidence, NWAC estimates that approximately 500 Aboriginal women have gone missing in the last 20 years. This estimate is supported by 1996 government statistics showing that Aboriginal women with status were FIVE TIMES more likely to die as a result of violence than any other group of Canadian women.

Colombia

Casa de la Mujer (House of the Woman of the Union) is a not-for profit association created in 1987 to respond to the need to create a space for women where they can receive aid and assistance. Its mission is to initiate and support activities and programs to assist women, young and adult, to reach equality of opportunities in all the scopes of society. Casa de la Mujer is actively engaged in: the struggle against domestic violence in Colombia; providing health related education and prevention programs; and assistance to unemployed women. Support to the Casa de la Mujer ensures that it can continue to offer services and activities to women and young people, making it possible for them to have a better quality of life.

Lesotho, Africa

Masai for Africa Campaign provides support to the Tšepong Clinic in the southern African country of Lesotho. Currently over 4,000 patients are registered at the Tšepong Clinic, and 1,300 people have been enrolled on ARV treatment. The clinic sees, on average, 115 patients each day - this includes 500 new patients who come for first time counselling and HIV testing, and includes an average of 86 to 100 new patients each month who are enrolled on the antiretroviral drug treatment program. The services can mean the difference between life and death for many people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Philippines

TWCAA Micro Lending Program for Women was launched in December in the Philippines with the goal of helping women escape poverty by establishing their own small businesses and assists with job training and placement and the development of cooperatives. The Micro Lending Program is a more approachable loan program that allows women the opportunity to participate more actively in economic activities and, as a result, will enhance their position in the household and in their communities. By providing them capital to set up an enterprise within the periphery of their homes, women can effectively interweave their economic activities with family life without additional burden. Currently, the new TWCAA Micro Lending Program for Women Project has released first cycle loans to 130 women from December 19, 2004 to January 25, 2006. When the TWCAA Board had decided to open the program to associate members, it was positively responded to by the women-in-need.

 

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