Women of all backgrounds will be meeting in Regina Saturday night for a talk on gender-based violence around the globe.
The discussion, Women from South Sudan and Canada on Healing and Peace, will be moderated by Yordanos Tesfamariam of the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan starting at 7 p.m.
The panel will include activists from South Sudan like Agnes Wasuk Petia, and women’s rights defenders working in Treaty 4 Territory like Crystal Giesbrecht.
Giesbrecht works with Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS) in Regina, which supports 21 agencies including many domestic violence shelters in the province.
She said Saskatchewan has the highest rate of intimate partner violence among the provinces — one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the country.
“Even though we’re doing more work in terms of prevention and in terms of supports for survivors of violence, these high, high rates of violence continue,” she said. “So we have to keep doing work to try to combat that.”
Reconciliation is one of the goals of the organization, which Giesbrecht said includes helping Indigenous women who have experienced violence.
PATHS recently started an arts-based cultural healing group. Giesbrecht said research shows that access to cultural arts can help people heal.
“It’s just in the early stages but we’re hearing good things. We’re hearing about how it’s helping the women, how it’s impacting their lives and we hope that this will be something that can be delivered and rolled out in more communities,” she said.
From Saskatchewan to South Sudan
For Wasuk Petia, reconciliation is also a goal but it seems a long way off in war-torn South Sudan. There, she said women are faced with physical and sexual violence at staggering rates. They are often in poor economic situations that make it hard to improve their lives.
“Women are trying to support their families, to take care of their children, so they are looking for a safe place to be,” Wasuk Petia said.
She wants peace to be achieved in her home country and is working to get women to speak out about their experiences with violence to help with their healing.
“We are looking at breaking the silence that they are in and looking at bringing out those women and girls who underwent violence,” she said.
Giesbrecht said that in Canada, activists have the ear of policy makers and can put pressure on government to help change things both locally and…