“There’s nothing to see here, folks.” says the man as he lightly pushes people behind the yellow tape, drawing his own shoulders back in an untamed display of authority and cautionary aggression.
We huddle, only half-hearing his warning, unable to tear our eyes from the wreckage in front of us. We are a sudden community of onlookers, all with an innate desire to bear witness, pulled as we are to acknowledge suffering and then wonder aloud, “What can I do to help?”
I have no specific story to attach this scene to, though you might imagine me at the side of the road watching with horror as lives are changed instantaneously. You might imagine me walking in chain formation through thick fields of grass and weeds that crunch and split beneath my feet earnest and hopeful as I search the ground, calling the name of a child lost quietly, violently only days before. You might imagine me huddled with a friend in the lobby of a police station, as she uses my sleeve to dry the flood of tears that can’t be dammed since he tore inside of her. You might imagine me drawing the curtains around a woman who wails for God to take her too; there’s too much pain left in the wake of her child’s death.
We cannot turn away. We cannot shelter our eyes and our hearts to what is happening in our communities, around the world, in the homes of friends, neighbours, loved ones maybe even our own.
There is a lot to see here, a lot that others may not want you to see. But our innate desire to observe is linked with our innate desire to stretch our arms around the wounded to shelter with love, kindness, understanding and community. It is our innate desire, that must be tapped like a wellspring and channelled into marches and movements that send clear messages to the lawmakers who have the power to stop and protect: we aren’t going to take this anymore.
We must first bear witness.
We must second take action.
When the idea of Her Story first came to me – as a strong desire to tell the stories of women – I became enamored with the following African Proverb:
Until the Story of the hunt is told by the Lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
The master narrative which glorifies is told by the white man.
I thought at first I wanted to travel the world and find the untold stories of women: in the hovels of Egypt, war-torn villages of Afghanistan, the laneways of Haiti. Then I realized, these stories – the lived experiences of women living with tremendous injustice and emotional pain – are right here in my own backyard.
We are a progressive country with national health care, a self-declared Feminist Prime Minister, warm examples of an inclusive immigration policy and a first world economy.
1 in 7 Canadians live in poverty.
Women who work in Canada earn about $0.72 per every dollar earned by a man.
1 in 3 women will experience some sort of sexual violence in her lifetime.
There are currently 582 cases of murdered or missing Aboriginal women in Canada.
We have communities living in our country’s borders without adequate clean water.
Death by suicide amongst aboriginal teens in Canada is 5-6x higher than it is amongst non-aboriginal youths.
Look beyond the statistics: there are real stories standing behind you in the grocery store line, they are collecting their children from the same playground you stand beside after school. These co-workers and school parents, teachers and friends of friends their eyelids hide tales of prosecution, persecution, discrimination, and suffering. And when I started looking for these stories right here in my own community, I was painfully startled by how easy they were to find. I only needed to become aware. I only needed to stop and listen.
Taslim and I began to speak about our shared passion for storytelling, women’s issues and social change. She told me something beautiful. She loves to write and she’s good at bringing her own story to paper. What she wants now is to listen.
I am ready to listen too.
And I am ready, as I hope you are too, to not just huddle, to bear witness to the wreckage but to bear the weight of responsibility too. It is up to me. It is up to you. It is up to us all to create the world we want to live in.
This is where I start: Her Story, Our Story magazine and podcast dedicates itself 4x annually to telling the stories and exploring the issues that matter to Canadian women. We give ourselves over as captains of a ship sailing social media campaigns that raise awareness and shine the spotlight on the good work of social service agencies fighting for a difference. Hope you join us.