The packages, filled with items like soap, toothpaste and shampoo, were part of the One Billion Rising campaign, an initiative to raise awareness to end violence against women and children
When 1,100 care packages were distributed to women in need throughout the Lower Mainland last week, they contained Valentine’s wishes, but no flowers. The omission was deliberate, said advocate Manpreet Multani, 24, of the World Sikh Organization of Canada.
The packages, filled with items like soap, toothpaste and shampoo, were part of the One Billion Rising campaign, an initiative to raise awareness to end violence against women and children. Multani said when the organization reached out to the shelters and low income housing representatives to ask what the women needed, they were told not to include flowers.
“We learned that many times the women had been given flowers by their abusers, and so they had negative associations,” said Multani.
Multani said that over the past nine years the World Sikh Organization of Canada has participated in the campaign to create care packages and distribute them to women and children in shelters and low-income housing. In 2018 they expanded the initiative to include participation from other faith organizations as part of Interfaith Harmony Week, which kicked off during the first week of February.
“One Billion Rising is the call to action based on the statistic that one in three women on the planet will be sexually or physically abused during her lifetime,” said Multani. “We gather supplies to support these women and children in these tough situations.”
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, every six days a Canadian woman is killed by her partner, and every night approximately 3,491 women and 2,724 children sleep in shelters because it is not safe at home, while 70 per cent of partner violence is unreported to the authorities. Among Indigenous women, the numbers are even higher: 24 per cent of Indigenous women have been victims of domestic violence, and although they represent 2 per cent of the Canadian population, Indigenous women represent 24 per cent of its homicide victims.
This year, the initiative had to make some adjustments due to COVID. Instead of a big community gathering to create the packages, volunteers picked up supplies and created packages at home, within their own bubbles.
For Multani, getting involved was more important than ever this year. “With COVID, a lot of women have been with their abusers for a long time, and unable to get away. Fifty-two per cent of shelters in Canada saw in increase in the severity of violence women were experiencing.”
Volunteers included messages of support and hope with every package, something Multani hopes will go further and last longer than flowers would.