The event began with a beautiful Drum Circle Song and prayer opening, performed by the Minwaashin Lodge Women’s Drum Circle, which included acapella singing to commemorate missing and murdered Aboriginal women. After an address by Erin Leigh, Executive director of OCTEVAW, the Shine the Light campaign was introduced, and the Ottawa Police Service Chief, Charles Bordeleau made an address.
Bordeleau reinforced the commitment we all share to speak out and never participate in acts of gender-based violence, which provided the perfect opening for a speech by Urooj Mian, President of WIIS-Canada, to further look at the 16Days campaign itself. Kia Rainbow, Executive Director of Interval House of Ottawa, followed and used her front-line experience to explain the severity of the situation of gender-based violence. The first campaign video premiered, featuring the powerful work of talented spoken word artist, Roua Ali, and videography by Say Ten. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Canada, Furio De Angelis, then made an address to further explain the prevalence of gender-based violence on a national and global scale. Intermission followed, allowing time for everyone to mingle, share their experiences, enjoy delicious food and bid at the silent auction.
Following the Intermission was an inspiring excerpt read by Yamikani Msosa, from SASC. The excerpt was from “Unspoken Stories: Stories of Butterflies”, an empowering and heart wrenching compilation of accounts of survivors of sexual violence. A moving live performance by Eva Digout of her original song, Amanda, was thoughfully arranged and beautifully sung. The symbolic lighting of 16 candles followed, and each candle-bearer shared a word relevant to the campaign and violence against women generally, until all 16 candles were lit to represent the duration of the campaign and solidarity of all the organizations.
After closing remarks, spoken word poet, Roua Ali, performed another stunning poem – motivating and empowering the attendees. The launch event was a success, and the presence of so many inspiring individuals with a passion for the campaign was truly incredible to see.
Photos courtesy of Batoul Hussain, abcreatives
*Limited space: registration required