VIDEO: Women’s rights focus of One Billion Rising event in Duncan

Annual event raises awareness of violence against women

The voice of Kendra Thomas broke with emotion as she talked about the death of two young girls at the hands of their father on Christmas Day last year in Oak Bay.

Thomas, from Warmland Women’s Support Services Society, told a gathering of more than 100 people who braved the rain and the cold in Duncan’s City Square on March 8 that in response, a domestic violence steering committee with 21 stakeholders has been formed in the Cowichan Valley that is working towards decreasing the risk of violence in the area.

“We don’t want to see an incident like what happened on Christmas Day in Oak Bay happen here,” she said at the One Billion Rising event, which was held on International Women’s Day.

“I’m so pleased to see so many people coming together like this to raise awareness. It’s so important that we hear the voices of people on this issue, especially the youth.”

People come together from the Cowichan Valley once a year at the local One Billion Rising event to dance and express joy, community and celebrate the fact that, together, violence can be defeated.

The events, held around the world, are calls to action based on the staggering statistics of abuse against women that state that about one in three women around the world will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes.

With the world population currently at about seven billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls.

The Duncan event is hosted in partnership by Cowichan Intercultural Society, Cowichan Women Against Violence and the Matraea Centre.

Bernadette Frank, from Cowichan Women Against Violence, said the organization deals with thousands of women each year that have been beaten by their partners, strangers or at the work place.

She said many of these women still have the people who beat them in their lives.

“We’ve seen kids, both boys and girls, as young as four years old who have seen their moms treated violently, or were the victims of violence themselves,” Frank said to the gathering.

“I feel hopeful with all of you coming here and showing that you want to make a difference in the lives of women.”

Marnie de Montford, a Grade 7 student at Discovery Elementary School, was among dozens of students from a number of local schools that attended the event.

She said she’s happy to participate.

“The turnout is really awesome,” Marnie said after dancing to ‘Break the Chain’ in a flash mob.

“We’re all here because we want women’s rights protected and respected and that’s great.”

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Debbie Williams offers a prayer at the start of the One Billion Rising event at City Square. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Zumba whiz Roz Pringle gets the whole crowd dancing to ‘Break the Circle’. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Kendra Thomas from Cowichan Women Against Violence is delighted to see so many young people in the crowd. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

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