One should never underestimate the power of a few uplifting words in an individual’s darkest time of turmoil.
This is the substance of an annual program called “Postcards of Positivity” created by Brandon’s Women’s Resource Centre to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month through November.
“This program provides awareness, hope, visibility, beauty and a voice to women and children who have survived domestic violence,” said Bobi Stupack, director of programming development at the Women’s Resource Centre. “It creates something positive out of a month that identifies something that definitely should not be celebrated. It makes something good out of a dark reality of our society.”
“Postcards of Positivity” has members of the public visit the center at 729 Princess Avenue to create a collage-type postcard containing a positive message or encouraging words. At the end of the month, the cards are distributed to shelters, resource centers and other domestic violence service providers for victims who find themselves in need of their programming.
Over the past several years, more than 825 postcards have been created, averaging about 150 per year.
“It feels so nice to be able to put that package of postcards together and send them away to other agencies for the work they are doing,” Stupack said.
On Nov. 1, Manitoba’s Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires proclaimed November as Domestic Violence Awareness Month across the province. In her announcement, she suggested almost everyone has been touched by the issue in some manner.
“We know the most dangerous time for individuals experiencing domestic violence is when one partner decides to leave the other. I urge all of us to reach out to the people around us and check on each other,” she said. “If we know of people who are using abusive behavior, reach out to them too. Let them know you are concerned. Encourage them to seek help. Don’t remain silent.”
“This program provides awareness, hope, visibility, beauty and a voice to women and children who have survived domestic violence." – Bobi Stupack, Women's Resource Centre
Beginning Nov. 25, Manitoba has committed to joining others around the world in the global “16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence” campaign. This initiative will focus on ending gender-based violence in the workplace. The United Nation’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign will run alongside the 16 days of activism using the hashtag, #HearMeToo, on social media to support survivor advocates and women’s human rights defenders.
“We all have a responsibility to end violence,” said Squires. “We must continue to voice that it is not acceptable or tolerated in our society. It is our responsibility to create an environment where survivors are supported as they rebuild their lives.”
YWCA Westman Women’s Shelter
Brandon’s YWCA Westman Women’s Shelter also has a set of initiatives running alongside November’s domestic violence awareness campaign.
A window display will be presented at the Shopper’s Mall through the first two weeks of the month, while information sessions on domestic violence and related topics are scheduled to take place in schools, businesses, non-profit organizations and government offices.
Presentations will also take place in elementary schools and in Assiniboine Community College classrooms. There is also a candle-light vigil planned for the shelter and another at Brandon University.
Finally, the YWCA will host the national Rose Campaign, which runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 6. This program is a YWCA Canada project that commemorates the murder of 14 young women at Montreal’s École Polytechnique on Dec. 6, 1989. Its objective is to mourn the tragedy while working for change to end violence against women and girls.
In 2017, 176 women, one man and 163 children sought the services provided by the YWCA Westman Women’s Shelter. There were more than 2300 counseling sessions for residential, non-residential and follow-up clients, while 65 support groups were held for women and 96 were held for children.
From January through October of this year, 207 women, six men and 228 children have received shelter services, while 1770 counseling sessions took place.
Along with the her proclamation, Minister Squires announced up to $45,000 for four training and awareness projects located throughout the province. Meanwhile, the 2018-2019 Family Violence Prevention Program has set aside $10.7 million for 33 community-based programs.
For more information about the Women’s Resource Centre’s “Postcards of Positivity” program, call (204) 726-8632.