International Women’s Day events today explore violence against women

In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, York University will hold a series of special events today that explore various aspects of violence against women. York’s celebration of International Women’s Day will take place this afternoon to allow for students, faculty and staff to attend off-campus events on Saturday, March 8.

All of today’s events will take place in the Contact Room located in The Underground restaurant in York’s Student Centre. Events run from 12:30 to 4pm. Organizers have planned a series of thought-provoking discussions and presentations interspersed with lively performances of African and Middle Eastern dance. Topics include violence against women at York University; overcoming violence in Rwanda; and discrimination and violence directed against women.

The day’s events officially launch at 12:30pm with welcome remarks delivered by Selwyn McSween, interim ombudsperson & director of human rights.

At 12:45pm, Adelaida Ortega will present the keynote address titled, "Violence Against Women at York University". Ortega is the outreach coordinator for the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Support Line (SASSL) at York University. A fourth-year communications and women’s studies major, Ortega will be attending college next year to pursue a career in social work.

Following Ortega’s presentation, York nursing student Ruth Kambali will give a presentation titled, "Overcoming Violence in Rwanda". Kambali is a student in the Faculty of Health’s nursing program for internationally-educated nurses. She recently helped organize a highly successful four-day event at McLaughlin College entitled "Lest we forget: Conference on Rwanda Genocide".

Participants will then break for a presentation of African dance.

At 1:30pm, organizers present a panel discussion on the topic "Discrimination and Violence Against Women". Panellists include Denise Taylor, Yudum Yonak, Margaret Alexander and a representative from the high-school group SWING.

Taylor is a student activist who received a diploma in paralegal studies and certificate in immigration and legal studies from Humber College. In 2007 she started a BA in women’s studies at York University. She is the organizer of a special flag-bearing event that will take place on Monday, March 10 (see the March 3 issue of YFile for details).

Yonak is a master’s student in the Interdisciplinary Studies Program at York. Yonak’s area of focus centres on violence against women in Turkey and its connections to patriarchy and religion. A graduate of York with a 2005 BA (Hons.), she is currently employed in research services as a research applications coordinator. She is also a member of SexGen at York, a committee supported by York’s Office of the Ombudsperson and the Centre for Human Rights, which deals with issues of systematic discrimination and protects and defends the rights and needs of LGBTT2IQQ members of the York community. Yonak is also the coordinator of Positive Space workshops, which are offered through SexGen.

Alexander is the program manager and developer for Springtide Resources, a Toronto-based community organization that promotes healthy and equal relationships by engaging diverse communities in shared educational strategies designed to prevent violence against women and the effect it has on children. An activist and educator in the women’s anti-violence movement for over 14 years, Alexander has worked in both women’s shelter and rape crisis services, developing programming that provided support and advocacy to women who had experienced violence. She has also delivered anti-oppression training to shelter workers. Alexander also teaches at George Brown College in the Assaulted Women and Children’s Counselor/Advocate Program.

Also participating in the panel will be a member of the Sisters With Integrity Navigating Greatness (SWING), a girls’ leadership group serving young women enrolled in Westdale Centennial Secondary School in the Jane and Finch community, which is adjacent to York’s Keele campus. The group provides educational workshops, youth development activities, support and advocacy around issues affecting young women.

Following the panel, there will be a brief question and answer session.

Then at 2:45pm, participants will have an opportunity to watch a demonstration of Wen-do, a self-defence system developed by women for women. Offered in a course format through the SASSL at York, the Wen-do courses are based on a variety of martial arts techniques which accommodate women’s and girls’ size and strength differences. Basic courses also cover avoidance and verbal self-defence strategies. The demonstration will be given by Denise Handlarski, a certified Wen-do instructor and a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at York University.

The afternoon will wrap up with a presentation of Middle Eastern dance after which light refreshments will be served.

Pre-registration is not required and all events are free and open to all members of the York community. For more information, visit the Office of the Ombudsperson & Centre for Human Rights Web site, or call Linda Grobovsky, senior adviser, education & communications, at ext. 20554, or e-mail