Wednesday November 25th was the International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women and on this day I had the pleasure of sharing One Spark with a local ladies networking group. The work of One Spark is important to me so I thought I would share their story here as well. Their mission is to provide barrier free opportunities for women experiencing violence, to generate income through entrepreneurship. One Spark wants to create a world where no woman faces financial barriers to living a life without violence.
The Executive Director of One Spark became familiar with the needs of women in transition through her work with Child Protection services, as a strategic planner. She recognized the staggering need for women fleeing violent living situations to have accessible housing and to generate or supplement an existing income quickly after deciding to leave her dangerous living situation. Interval homes are an amazing first step in the process to living violence free but many are over capacity and are for short term use. After their time in an interval home, women are faced with job searching and in need of childcare with little external assistance. Some face living in poverty causing them to often return to living in violence. These financial barriers cause many women to have to choose between being poor or living in violence, a choice no one should ever have to make. More specifically these are some details that demonstrate the need for the work of One Spark:
- Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
- On any given day in Canada, more than 3,300 women (and their 3,000 children) are sleeping in a shelter to escape domestic violence. Every night, more than 200 women are turned away because the shelters are full.
- 1 in 4 Canadians say they have tried to help a friend leave a violent relationship.
- On average, every six days a woman is killed by their intimate partner. In 2011, from the 89 police reported homicides, 76 of the victims (over 85%) were women.
Women sometimes stay in abusive relationships because they are financially dependant on their partner. Leaving the relationship often means doing so without sustainable income or accessible housing. Interval homes serve as a short term safe house between a victim leaving the abuser and finding long term housing. During this short period of time it can be challenging for a woman to deal with all the facets of her current situation, find a job and childcare, if children are involved.
One Spark's program works to remove the financial barriers women face when fleeing violent living situations by coming along side them to assist them in setting up a business that could provide them with income. A woman going through the One Spark program will be provided with the following:
- assistance creating a simple business plan
- have her business registered for her including the costs being covered
- provided with a laptop and basic software required for running a business
- provided with information regarding legal compliance and government remittances
- provided training on tracking business income and expenses
- provided up to $2,000 in start up costs and ongoing mentorship
We are currently working with The Work Place Group in Sarnia and other similar organizations across Southwestern Ontario to connect with women in need of our services. The organization is based out of the Toronto area but we are set up to service any woman in need across Ontario. We are working to build more relationships with organizations like The Work Place Group so that we can continue to connect with more women in need of our services.
Unfortunately, I am sure that many of us at some point in our lives have seen the need for the services of One Spark and other services working to end violence against women. In our own community we have witnessed the tragedy that can occur when a woman is living in violence. I believe in the work of One Spark because I know there are still many women that need its voice to be loud on their behalf. This organization helps to remove a woman from violence but it also provides her with tools to find her own voice once more. Entrepreneurship provides an option for financial freedom and provides women an opportunity to grow in their self confidence. Owning a business is very empowering as your skills are providing for you and you are in control of your success. In our community, being a female business owner makes you part of an amazing group of women who work hard to support each others professional and personal endeavours.
Sometimes it can be crippling to hear about the violence and sadness in our world, what can I really do to make a difference with the issue of violence against women. The thought of the overwhelming work that needs to be done, does exactly that, cripples my actions and sometimes I regretfully do nothing. I do believe that we can make a difference and raising our voices can make positive change on the issues of violence against women. We can make a difference with our voices, we need to use our voices for those who are unable to speak for themselves. We need to talk about violence against women in hopes that someone in need of assistance will no longer feel they need to be silent. We need to remember those who have been lost to violence so their stories are never repeated and we need to tell the stories of survival to bring hope to those escaping violence.
The issue of violence against women is still in need of being brought out of the darkness so that the women currently living with violence, are not afraid to take the first steps in living a life free of violence. On Dec 6 National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women we would ask that you join One Spark in honouring the women we have lost to violence, to give hope to the women experiencing violence and to bring the issue of violence against women out of the darkness. We can create awareness and conversation by sharing our moments of remembrance on Dec 6 by lighting candles in our windows, taking a photo of them and sharing them on Facebook. Please tag One Spark (Facebook) to create awareness of our work and to show that we have hope that one day our world will be free of violence against women.