Members of the Relief Society and Young Women organizations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in British Columbia recently participated in community events to raise awareness about gender-based violence. These events offered an opportunity to provide practical support to local community organizations that support women who experience violence or families in crisis.
Women of all ages in the Church’s Surrey British Columbia Stake and neighbouring Vancouver British Columbia Stake partnered with other community organizations to spearhead local One Billion Rising events. One Billion Rising is a global movement to empower local groups to end violence against women. The campaign launched on Valentine’s Day 2012 “as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that one in three women … will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at seven billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls” (OneBillionRising.org).
The Surrey British Columbia Stake held their event on February 21, 2022. Latter-day Saint youth co-ordinated with other youth groups from the World Sikh Organization, Crossroads Community Church and the Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib. Together, the youth contacted women’s shelters and low-income housing providers to determine the needs of women and children across the lower mainland area of British Columbia.
The youth decided to create care kits for women fleeing gender violence. A COVID-19-friendly, drive-through event was held to assemble the care kits. Participants drove to multiple stations, collected toiletry items that had previously been gathered and sorted, and added them to supplied kit bags. Each vehicle was encouraged to assemble 10 to 15 kits, which were then placed in a delivery van. The youth assembled 1,500 care kits for area shelters.
Autumn Smith, a young woman from the Surrey British Columbia Stake, said, “It was truly inspiring to see our community come together today, work together, giving back to our community and to recognize the challenges so many women face. It was a cold day, but hearts couldn’t be warmer.”
Eknoor Kaur Toor, a youth from the World Sikh Organization, expressed, “This event was nothing like I had ever worked on before, and the time from planning in October till the day of flew by so fast. Regardless, the event itself came together beautifully, and I am in awe of the support received from the community and participants of several faiths. It is empowering to work together with the community to raise funds for such an amazing movement.”
The neighbouring Vancouver British Columbia Stake also joined in the One Billion Rising global movement’s worldwide plea to “rise for a future where all women and girls and the earth flourish” (Vancouver British Columbia Stake One Billion Rising 2022). The Vancouver British Columbia Stake planned a multilayered event that kicked off on February 12, 2022, with an online seminar to raise awareness of the realities of domestic abuse. After the webinar, local congregations were matched with area shelters and organizations. Church members have begun working to gather donations to meet the unique wish lists of their partner shelter or organization.
The global One Billion Rising campaign also supports an artistic uprising to express joy and celebrate women. It encourages the use of art, dance and music to “reclaim, express, … disrupt, unite and awaken” (OneBillionRising.org). The Vancouver British Columbia Stake responded to this call with an online art gallery, a youth-performed dance and an original song. The song, “Choose Brave,” was composed and recorded by Francheska Hensen, a young woman and Church member from the Burnaby Ward.
For more details on the Vancouver British Columbia Stake’s event or to view the art, dance and music, visit their website.
Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, said, “I know that the power of good women and good men working together can create opportunities where they were once limited. I know the power in a community that resolves to protect and then empower its most vulnerable and also most valuable resource — the next generation. I am thankful for the role that the Church and many others are playing to improve the lives of and develop opportunities for women around the world” (“Lead, Lift, and Love — Wherever We Are in the World,” March 2021).