Malvern resident Tracy Miller says she found herself at a personal crossroads when she first came to the Women’s Place.
Now, more than a year later, Miller is celebrating the National Day of Remembrance and Action of Violence Against Women alongside other community women at the centre.
“I have come to the Women’s Place and I’ve cried and cried. But they’ve gone through a lot to find ways and places that can help me,” says Miller, who emigrated from Jamaica to Canada five years ago.
The Women’s Place held a candlelight ceremony from 10 a.m. to noon on Dec. 6 to recognize and remember the victims of gender-based violence. The event also included a workshop where Malvern women examined how to reduce violence against those in the community.
“When I heard other people’s perspectives, I started to realize that women all over the world have the same problems,” Miller says. “By hearing about the things other women have gone through, it has helped me overcome whatever problems I’m facing today.”
Established by the Parliament of Canada in 1991, the National Day of Remembrance marks the anniversary of the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique Massacre in Montreal when 14 female engineering students were murdered by Marc Lepine.
The Women’s Place, located on 31 Tapscott Rd. on the lower level of Malvern Town Centre, was adorned with multiple anti-violence posters, one reading: “A life without violence and abuse is every woman’s right.”
But the focal point of the centre on Dec. 6 was a circular arrangement of 14 chairs, each with a sheet of paper on top, containing the names and ages of the 14 Montreal victims, along with a poem to be read aloud by the women present that day.
Cathy Mwanza, manager of the Women’s Place for the past three years and a Highland Creek resident, says Dec. 6 represents “a chance to talk to other women, and see where we are with the women’s movement.”
“It’s a way to really unite women together, and a time to remember the past, to look at the present, and to see where we’re heading in the future. Regardless if it’s three or 30 women, it’s really important for us to sit together and talk about the issues that need to be changed,” Mwanza says.
“When we unite as women, we are strength.”
According to its official information pamphlet, the Women’s Place is a centre where women can get resources about a variety of services and programs available in the community.
“As a newcomer to Canada, I didn’t really know the laws of the country. But I called Cathy [Mwanza] because I know she could lead me accordingly,” Miller says. “So, for example, with the abuse system, the staff here will tell you exactly what to do and how to do it.”
“Plus, whatever is said in here is confidential.”