International Women's Day Reflection

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It’s been said that the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s not simply a place to prepare food – it’s a place to gather, a place to unwind, a place to enjoy a delicious meal and fulfilling conversation, an opportunity to refresh the spirit in the presence of good company. The kitchen at Interval House is no exception. Bustling with activity, the kitchen is full of life and experience, as women and children prepare and enjoy nutritious and delicious meals.  

Historically, on March 8th, Interval House’s kitchen takes on a whole new theme of celebration. Bright and early in the morning, the kitchen is lit up with the sound of eggs cracking, of pancakes cooking on the griddle. The aroma of fresh bacon frying fills the air, tantalizing the nostrils of the residents as they wait patiently for breakfast to be served. This is not an everyday breakfast at Interval House. One of our counsellors heeds the call of her early alarm to begin prepping the decadent breakfast, all in celebration of International Women’s Day. It is often the first time residents have celebrated this global event, and a significant milestone to honour on their journey of freedom from violence.

International Women’s Day is celebrated worldwide, to honour the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. It’s also a day to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done to make gender equality a reality. Living in a developed and prosperous country like Canada, it’s easy to lose sight of how much work is still to be done to achieve this ultimate goal. 

The World Economic Forum has predicted that gender parity will not be realized until 2133. In Ontario alone, the gender wage gap is 26% for full-time workers – meaning, for every $1.00 a man earns for his job, a woman doing the same job would earn $0.74 (Statistics Canada, 2011).   

Inequality is not limited to just wage either. Women face gender-related issues worldwide, not only in the workforce, but also in the home, and in public.  We have made wonderful progress since the first formally recognized Women’s Day in New York City in 1909 – when women marched in the streets demanding shorter hours, higher wages and voting rights. 

Still, as we share the celebration within the walls of Interval House, we are aware that violence against women persists as a major issue women face.

The statistics speak for themselves. At least one women is killed by her partner every 6 days in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2011). Each year, an estimated 362,000 children witness or experience family violence (UNICEF, 2006). Sadly, if these children are raised in an abusive household, the likelihood is that they will continue the cycle of violence in their own adult lives. Only 22% of victims of spousal violence report their abuse to the police in Canada (Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children).

In light of these statistics, it’s a beautiful moment to celebrate the achievements of women worldwide, and the achievement of the women at Interval House for leaving their abusers and choosing to rebuild their lives. The bravery and strength of our residents inspires and serves as a reminder as to why International Women’s Day is such an important occasion to commemorate and celebrate. The more women’s issues are brought to light and the more we honour the brave women fighting for equality, the more women are empowered to follow suit and seek equality in all facets of their lives.

Our residents at Interval House may never tell their stories on a larger platform. They may never receive public recognition for their tremendous bravery. But they have made the conscious choice to walk away from their abusers and heal – and that is a truly amazing accomplishment that we hope all women facing violence in the home will make. We are thrilled to support women in their journey to health, happiness and self-sufficiency with a safe place to call home.

Back in the kitchen at Interval House, the slight sound of drip coffee passing through the filter is audible. The table is a mosaic of plates, cutlery, maple syrup, butter, milk, and cream. Excitement and positive energy are tangible in the air. Women and their children sit down to enjoy a meal today, as they do every day. But today, they formally celebrate International Women’s Day, many for the first time. In celebrating International Women’s Day, they honour themselves along with all women and take the moment to formally recognize their own strength amongst a community. The beauty of new beginnings.

Image credit: Sean MacEntee, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0