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June 19, 2015

Opening Up the Conversation

 

Author: Selenna Ho

 

When I tell people that I work at Surrey Women's Centre, their initial reaction is usually surprise and disbelief, followed by a series of questions, like: "You want to work in that field?!"; "That's very brave of you!"; and, "You must have so much burden on your shoulders!". What's my reaction? I tend to laugh. I laugh because I am so used to these reactions, because I want to transform a solemn discussion into a positive one--but most of all, I laugh because that was my reaction years ago, before I knew what it was like to work at a women's centre.  

 

Working at a feminist organization is usually seen as negative and irrelevant. I used to believe this too until my third year studying at UBC. During the school year, multiple women were sexually assaulted on campus, and the Sauder rape chants were exposed. These events made me question the way our society encourages unequal gender roles, and why it’s so hard to talk about it.

 

My job as a Fund Developer for Surrey Women's Centre is to open the conversation around violence against women. I do this by engaging in everyday news relating to gender and sex oppression, and then sharing it. We are also constantly using our centre for feminist activities, such as the time we had a group of entrepreneur Somali women test their business products on us for feedback. In this way, I am directly involved in the empowerment of marginalized women. This is the strength of feminism

 

At the end of the day, I am usually excited with all the new information that I have learned, and I find myself talking nonstop about it to my friends and family. They may start off with surprise and disbelief, along with the familiar string of questions, but after a while, an interesting phenomena happens: they start opening up to me about gendered issues that they face in their everyday lives.

 

One of my closest friends --"Lilly" --called me to ask for help. She had just witnessed one of her friends getting hit by her boyfriend, and she wasn't sure of what resources were out there, and how to approach the situation. Lilly explained that she felt uncomfortable going to a women's centre alone for advice because she was afraid of being judged by her peers. I explained to her the processes of women's centres, and how the people who work there are confidential and warm. At the end of our conversation, Lilly decided to go to a nearby women's centre for more advising, and was extremely happy with the guidance. Lilly learned how to talk to her friend in an empathetic and open minded way, and for that she was grateful.

 

The fact that she felt safe sharing her experiences with me reinforced the value of feminist work: circulating the conversation on gendered and sexualized violence.

 

 

 

 


 

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