Genesis House is constantly working hard to expand its reach past women and children at risk for domestic violence in the Pembina Valley. Thanks to a grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Women and Gender Equality Canada, they've been able to organize a lunch and learn series to empower women.
Although all women are welcome to attend, they're hoping to target women under thirty, newcomers, and those with disabilities. In total, over 40 attended the first lunch on Thursday.
The board that is organizing these discussions also includes a variety of community members like Tina Fehr-Kehler, who says her life is grounded equally in her Christian faith, Mennonite culture, and feminism. Some students from Northlands Parkway Collegiate were also recruited by Ang Braun, Executive Director, to help bring a youth voice into the conversations.
Lorie English was the guest speaker and works as Executive Director of the West Central Women's Resource Centre in Winnipeg.
Although the definition of feminism and its cultural movement has changed over time, she settled on 'Intersectional feminism' as what we see today.
It means that those seeking to make gender equality need to recognize the many barriers women face from age to race, ethnicity, class, ability, religion, and different life experiences.
Despite popular belief, feminism is not about bashing men but is about taking note of the many things in today's world that makes it difficult for women to be treated equally. Another term for this approach is 'gender-based analysis.'
This inequality can come from the beauty industry and teaching young women about how they should look or be, rather than accepting themselves as beautiful. It comes along with the fact that Manitoba rates of violence against women are statistically double the national average, women make up the majority of minimum wage workers in Canada, and three out of four part-time workers in the country are also women. These are just some examples of inequality.
"We can try to kid ourselves and pretend that those are problems of other people but they are not. They are problems in our community," says Braun, who sees this gender imbalance every day at the shelter.
"There is a lack of housing for single individuals, a lack of affordable housing for families, so that does keep people in a cycle of either homelessness or couch surfing . . . That problem is not exclusive to women. Historically, when they thought about homeless people, that image has been of homeless men."
Braun notes there is a housing project in Alberta that was designed for men, and after a year they discovered half of the people that used their services were women and children exiting shelters.
To help break this cycle of inequality, she says everyone can get involved in the conversation. Being a feminist is simply about speaking up against sexism and inequality, and supporting each other’s strength and courage.