THRIVE: Our Voices Rising! Conference

For the 16 Days of Action against Gender-Based Violence (November 25-December 10), Interval House is featuring the amazing work being done by other violence against women agencies in the GTA. This is the first blog in our 16 Days Series.

On Saturday November 29th, community members, social workers, and volunteers met at Toronto’s Metro Hall for METRAC’s THRIVE conference to discuss the implications and preventative measures involving gender-based violence. A forum for answering questions, raising awareness, and promoting solidarity in the face of gender-based violence, the event was the third of its kind for METRAC.

As part of the 16 Days of Activism, the underlying theme was that of action, of solidarity, and of community.

“Often people are not sure what they can do to end violence,” said Jessica Mustachi, METRAC’s Safety Program Coordinator. “Creating spaces like the THRIVE forum to allow people to learn about the work people and groups are doing is one way to open up and create that space.”

“Coming together as grassroots [organizations] we can create change,” said Sheryl Lindsay, executive director of Sistering and coordinator with No More Silence, in her keynote address. Lindsay spoke of the work she is doing to create awareness surrounding the missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the importance of community involvement in spurring action.

The event featured workshops on topics ranging from violence and poverty to racism to gender-inclusion housing, with discussions led by experienced social workers and activists.

Wendy Forrest, a Toronto health care provider and member of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, focused her workshop on the connection between poverty and violence and the need for safe spaces, like Interval House, in the city.

“We need to learn to build genuine resistance [to violence] in our communities – all our communities,” she said, adding that women living below the poverty line or in gentrified areas of the city are more vulnerable.

Palpitating with a sense of urgency, there was also a sense of hope and true community in the discussions and speeches of THRIVE, and a chance for different groups and organizations to share their successes and learning with each other.