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Change for the Sake of Change?

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To read our letter to the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, click here. To read the call to action from the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organization’s, click here.

This week, a reminder that sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone and to avoid making change for the sake of making change. The recommended changes to the Alberta Lobbyists Act from the Office of the Ethics Commissioner are just such an example. Before you close your window because the idea of reading about policy makes you want to take a long nap, let us explain.

Lobbying is communicating with government officials to explain specific interests and positions on issues to affect public policy or government decision making. At YW Calgary, we believe we have an obligation to speak up and speak out for the women with whom we work – as well as those women we hope never to meet – to affect long-term change through strong policy development.

The Alberta Lobbyists Act was first proposed in 2007 as a way of ensuring organizations who are lobbying do so in a way that is clear and responsible. The Act is intended to increase Albertan’s confidence that government is acting with integrity in their decisions.

In 2007, non-profit organizations in Alberta brought forward serious concerns about how they would be affected. The concerns led to organizations who work for general “public benefit” being exempted from the Act. This exemption recognized the fundamental difference between lobbying for policy change aimed for public benefits – like ending homelessness – and lobbying for a commercial interest. This allowed organizations like YW Calgary to continue to develop collaborative relationships with government officials to meaningfully work to the benefit of vulnerable populations.

In 2016, the Office of the Ethics Commissioner began the process of reviewing the Lobbyists Act. After asking non-profits and other interested parties to provide input, the Commissioner recommended a number of changes including that non-profit organizations (as well as charities with five or more employees) who chose to participate in public policy advocacy activities be required to register as lobbyists. This would have a devastating impact on non-profits ability to advocate for those who struggle to speak up and speak out.

These recommended changes come after input from YW Calgary, Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organization’s (CCVO), Volunteer Alberta and the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (to name a few) specifically advised against such action. The recommendations are deeply concerning and will fundamentally change non-profits relationships with public officials. When all communication outside of a written request from government is considered lobbying, it handcuffs non-profits ability to affect change at a policy level.

As well, requiring public benefit non-profits to register as lobbyists adds a completely unnecessary layer of administrative legwork from the required tracking information: quite simply creating overhead.

For example, we would be required to report any meetings with government officials within 30 days of the meeting occurring and to release plans related to intended lobbying months in advance. Such requirements – combined with the murky manner by which public policy conversations actually materialize – often adjunct to an MLA tour or a contract review meeting with a government funder – are unrealistic.

These requirements are on top of providing critical service supports – like shelter for women fleeing abuse – and the reporting required related to such contracted service provision. If the recommendations are adopted, we predict there would be a harmful chilling of advocacy work across the sector.

Boards of Directors may fear being in violation of the Act and face a minimum $25,000 first fine. Ultimately, this impacts our clients, our ability to move the needle on issues like poverty, homelessness and ending violence against women.

YW Calgary is fervently against these proposed changes. Our partners and collaborators at Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organization’s issued a call to action for all non-profits in Alberta to write their MLA, the Chair of the Standing Policy Committee on Resource Stewardship (MLA Rod Loyola) and urge them to keep the current exemption for public benefit nonprofits. Click here to read more on why we are opposed to these changes.

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Valentine’s Day & Taking Care of You

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The pink hearts are littered across the grocery stores, the roses are red as ever and every billboard, magazine and commercial you hear is celebrating ‘your love’ through four low payments of $59.99. It’s clearly Valentine’s Day and whether you’re coupled up or spending the day solo, it’s time to take a check on your mental health and practice some self-care on the world’s most ‘romantic’ day.

Valentine’s Day can bring up negative feelings both financially and personally regardless of whether you’re single or coupled up. For those in relationships, there is a constant pressure to link the amount of money spent on Valentine’s Day as proof of how much you care. Social media feeds into the love day frenzy with posts from friends and family showing off the romantic gestures from their significant others. V-Day almost becomes a competition with social media based on the number of likes and comments a post receives. Even for couples who are unhappy, Valentine’s Day can serve as a Band-Aid solution full of chocolates and roses as a way to avoid their underlying relationship issue.

Valentine’s Day can be extremely depressing for single women leaving them with a pressure to couple up and find ‘the one’. Often this leaves them feeling even more isolated. For those that are unattached, Valentine’s Day often serves as a reminder that they are alone. You see all your friends posting about their love and everyone at work seems to get roses and chocolates from their partners, it can be isolating. Those who are single have coined it ‘Singles Awareness Day’ (S.A.D.) and even the name reflects what many are feeling. It can lead to questionable choices like inviting that not-so-good-for-you ex out to dinner, or a frantic search for a date on the day to avoid feeling alone.

While this Hallmark holiday may seem unavoidable, instead of feeling alone or unappreciated this Valentine’s Day take some time for you. Regardless of whether you’re coupled up or flying solo, we all deserve some extra love. YW’s counselling manager, Shelly Qualtieri, provided five tips to stay positive over Valentine’s Day:

  1. Get active – go for a walk or run, hit the gym, pool or yoga studio
  2. Spend time with those that you love – this does not have to be a partner- it can be a friend, family member, peer, or pet!
  3. Spend a few moments marvelling at the benefits of being single and spending time with amazing you
  4. Give to someone else – a random act of kindness always feels good
  5. Treat yourself, we all deserve it

Taking care of yourself is so important especially during times of stress or when you’re feeling overwhelmed as some may be on Valentine’s Day. Self-care is one of the best ways we can maintain our physical, mental and emotional health which enables us to be the best versions of ourselves. Next time you’re feeling a little overwhelmed or needing a little ‘me time’ keep these tips in mind and remember that we all need a break sometimes.

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Engaging Men and Boys

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Ending violence against girls and women is everyone’s issue. From supporting the women who escape abuse, providing refuge for those needing a safe place to advocating for a community where women can live free of violence, we all have a role to play. A critical role that is not frequently discussed is the role that men and boys play in ending violence against women. Men and boys are an important ally and partner in speaking up and speaking out against gender-based violence and the need to engage with them is more pressing than ever.

As a proud partner and member of the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective (CDVC), we work collaboratively with close to 60 community partners that provide a coordinated response to domestic and sexual violence prevention and intervention. This week the CDVC published an important and informative series of video blogs (vlogs) uncovering what role men play in ending violence against women. The vlog provides a unique and thoughtful perspective from Tristan Abbott of the Calgary Sexual Health Centre who explains what engaging men and boys means, his own journey in viewing how men are societally portrayed and some of the resources men and boys have access to lead healthy lives.

The reality is that violence against women is most often perpetrated by men and the use of violence is often based on men’s own experiences with violence and commonly held versions of manhood that create barriers for men accessing support services. We highly recommend taking less than five minutes out of your day to watch the videos which we have embedded. If you want to read the blog, click here.

In 2016 Calgary saw a 36 per cent increase in domestic violence calls, making it one of its highest since 2004. The need to end domestic violence as a community is more pressing than ever. As the largest and longest serving women’s organization in Calgary, we are committed to speaking up and speaking out to end gender-based violence to ensure women can live safely in the communities they chose. In 2015, YW Sheriff King Home sheltered 212 women and 276 children fleeing family violence.

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Jessica Ackerman Graphic Design Portfolio

Black History Month

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Canada’s documented history tends to leave out details that don’t align with the current reputation as multicultural pioneers, tolerant of all newcomers to our country.  When we delve into our country’s history, even our province’s history, we leave out the parts about the racism, prejudice and segregation. In Alberta, elementary and junior high students are only exposed to a small amount of black history which is focused on the Underground Railroad. It is high time that we taught history from an intersectional approach, a term coined by a black woman named Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, that acknowledges there are multiple and intersecting forms of oppression and discrimination.

It was 1947, in a dark movie theatre, Canada was, again, confronted by its racism that found a woman being forcibly removed and arrested. Her crime? Tax evasion in the amount of one cent after sitting in a ‘whites’ only section of a movie theatre. Her punishment? Spending the night in jail and paying a fine 2000 times more than the province was defrauded. Viola Desmond, oftern referred to as Canada’s Rosa Parks was the first black woman to legally challenge racial segregation in Canada, Until 2016, when Viola was announced as the first woman on a banknote, history forgot this story.

History is often written by the ‘victors’ and overlooks the impact of marginalized communities. For example, we don’t teach about Alberta’s dark history with African, Caribbean and Black Canadians. Few know that Alberta was the only province to legally recognize the Ku Klux Klan, who used to openly meet in Edmonton or that Albertan politicians infamously said there should be “no more dark spots in Alberta”.

However, history took a different turn this week with Alberta honouring the history and contributions of African, Caribbean and Black Canadians by officially declaring February Black History Month for the first time. The proclamation makes Alberta the fourth province in Canada to recognize Black History.

The black community’s historical presence has had a substantial impact on Alberta from Violet King, the first black female lawyer in Canada who graduated from the University of Alberta, to John Ware and his contributions to the Calgary Stampede. We write out how many smaller Alberta towns owe their start to black immigrants seeking better lives with many escaping religious persecution or fleeing racism and violence. Particularly those coming from the United States who were leaving a country where they were oppressed and the victims of racial violence like lynchings.

We must look at our history with the intent to learn more in order to avoid repeating past mistakes. Collectively remain vigilant and aware of the deep seeded prejudices we may have based on a history we may not understand. Our province’s strength comes from its diversity. Despite the rich stories that exist from all communities, we know that history wasn’t written to reflect everyone’s experiences, so those who identify as a visible minority remain invisible, especially women.

At YW Calgary, through our work we demonstrate an inclusive and anti-oppressive approach. Women have the opportunity to engage based on their social identities and experiences.  We welcome all women, and their families and believe that our community is that much healthier and stronger when we embrace diversity.

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Reconciliation: More than a Symbolic Gesture

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Women have always been a beacon of hope for me. Mothers and grandmothers in the lives of our children, and in the survival of our communities, must be recognized and supported. The justified rage we all feel and share today must be turned into instruments of transformation of our hearts and our souls, clearing the ground for respect, love, honesty, humility, wisdom and truth. We owe it to all those who suffered, and we owe it to the children of today and tomorrow. May this day and the days ahead bring us peace and justice.

  • Patsy George on the strength of Indigenous women and their contributions to reconciliation.

In 2015, following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada’s release, Calgary City Council directed the Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee (CAUAC) to discuss truth and reconciliation. The findings and subsequent calls to action outlined in the TRC, after six years of hearings and testimony from more than 6,700 residential school survivors from across Canada detailed more than a century of abuse at Indian Residential Schools. The findings and calls to action were captured in 25 pounds of literature across nine volumes recounting the destruction of a culture.

The TRC found that the residential school system was created intentionally to remove indigenous parent’s involvement in the development of their children as a means of assimilation. Alberta’s role in reconciliation is substantial when you consider Alberta had at least 26 residential schools with some counts reaching 30. In Calgary, there were at least 10 residential schools in and around our city removing indigenous children from their families for more than 110 years.

This week Calgary took an additional and important step towards reconciliation with an almost unanimous vote to rename Langevin Bridge to Reconciliation Bridge. The change was first recommended in White Goose Flying, the report to Calgary City Council on the Indian Residential School Truth and Reconciliation calls to action in May 2016. The report highlighted the importance of renaming the bridge because of its link to Indian Residential Schools. Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, one of the Fathers of Canadian Confederation was a proponent of residential schools and an instrumental figure in establishing the design of Canadian residential schools.

“The fact is that if you wish to educate the children, you must separate them from their parents during the time they are being taught. If you leave them in the family, they may know how to read and write, but they will remain savages, whereas by separating them in the way proposed, they acquire the habits and tastes…of civilized people.” – Sir Hector-Louis Langevin, 1883.

Renaming the bridge does not wash the history of our city or our country: itis a symbolic gesture in recognizing the history between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians and how complicated that history can be. Today we are building a different future. It is a step in the right direction to end the inter-generational trauma that was direct result of the development and implementation of a school system that’s purpose was to eradicate so-called savages. We applaud the bridge’s renaming and the steps the city of Calgary has taken in the name of reconciliation.

As the largest and longest serving women’s organization in the city, YW Calgary recognizes the intersectional trauma that indigenous women have experienced. We applaud the steps taken by governments at all levels towards reconciliation. We see the vulnerabilities and pain directly linked to indigenous women and their family’s experiences with residential schools and remain committed to building communities based on respect.

Education is the key to reconciliation; we must demand a course of action at the federal and provincial levels of government to understand and ensure we all remain aware of this history. Each of us has a role to play in reconciliation and YW Calgary remains committed to supporting women and their families to heal and build skills through our services and continued advocacy. Click here to learn more about TRC’s Calls to Action and click here to learn about CAUAC’s calls to action for Calgary.

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YW Calgary in YYC: Women’s March on Washington

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On Saturday, January 21 thousands of Calgarians turned up for the Calgary Women’s March on Washington. The march was a rally in the spirit of equity, diversity, inclusion and open to any and all who wanted to participate. YW Calgary was proud to have our team members, their families and friends join in solidarity. To us, the march was against the hate, division and vitriol of the United States election that left many feeling scared for their rights and their future. As the largest and longest serving women’s organization in Calgary, we felt a strong desire to add our voices, effect change while fighting for a cause that is bigger than each one of us.

At the Calgary march women carried signs identifying themselves as grandmothers; babies not yet walking; men; young women and those who will soon be young women and men. Some signs displayed language heard during the election, while others called for the protection of their rights. We felt the energy of 5000 individuals coming together with an unwavering sense of commitment to fight for human rights.

Calgary was one of 600 rallies across North America where citizens came together to raise their voices and say NO to hatred that seeks to divide. The Calgary event featured powerful speakers and a performance by the Lovebullies that left attendees feeling moved and motivated. The speakers elicited tears with their moving words while inspiring many to shout out and cheer in support.

The march, on the heels of the U.S. Presidential inauguration event comes at a time of uncertainty in the United States. The work to build equality, inclusion and freedom of expression is unending. We must continually look to our own communities and speak out against the hatred and harassment women face every day. We know that women have left leadership races because of threats from faceless users; we know that ministers of Parliament receive letters telling them to cover their skin and we know that Canada’s only female prime minister continues to actively speak out against sexism in politics today. We must continue to work for equity because we know it changes everything for families and for communities as a whole.

What is next? How do we keep the energy going? What can each of us do? Read the press release from the Women’s March on Washington Canada’s social media page. Support the calls to action outlined in the letters and hold all Canadian political parties accountable for women.

As we take the incredible energy from the march back to our Monday routines, we know that nothing is routine. How are you, your organization, or your community carrying the energy and the spirit of this march into the future? We want to hear your thoughts on what we can do! If you have an idea, e-mail us at communications@ywcalgary.ca

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Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery

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Being 13 years old often means going to the mall, hanging out with friends and worrying a little bit more about school and getting good grades; you’re just trying to fit in and have fun with your friends. One day, you’re at the mall and someone approaches you telling you the most kind and caring things you may have ever heard. This person connects with you, offers you a secure life with love and promises -that will never be kept. They manipulate you by using little drops of what seems like love to convince you to run away with them. After making you dependent, they exploit you using intimidation, threats, isolation and control.

January 11 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Human trafficking is defined by the Department of Justice as “the recruitment, transportation, harbouring and/or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person”. The most common forms of exploitation are sexual or forced labour. When women reflect on how they became victims of human trafficking, often they describe how their traffickers used this “Romeo” technique to lure them away from their homes. The reality in Canada is that the most common victims of sex trafficking are 13 to 14-year-old girls.

Sex trafficking is a worldwide issue that disproportionately affects women with 98 per cent of sex trafficking victims being women and girls. In Canada, 93 per cent of trafficking victims are female and come from Canada. Most alarming, yet unsurprising is that indigenous women make up 51 per cent of the victims of trafficking references by a report from Public Safety Canada in 2014 as the most vulnerable to exploitation. Sex trafficking is a serious threat to women’s equality and erodes women and girls basic rights to live free of violence and the biggest risk factor for being a victim of trafficking is being a girl. Aside from the loss of basic human rights, women often face psychological, emotional and physical effects from surviving sexual violence.

Traffickers don’t view women as people; she is a commodity, she is something to be sold, traded or bartered away to make them money. The Canadian Women’s Foundation reported that the average annual profit from each female trafficked in Canada is $280,800 dollars. It is all about the money for the trafficker, but the problem lies in how the justice system deals with traffickers and those exploiting women. Since 2007, there have only been 71 trafficking court cases with only 30 per cent resulting in a guilty finding. Those that are doing the most harm are not the traffickers, but those exploiting women and children. If there is little concern of being convicted, why would the exploitive behaviour change? There is even greater concern with the shift in sex trafficking moving from being visible on the street to invisible on the internet.

Part of the solution starts with talking about these issues and having compassion for the victims. We need to focus our attention on those who are exploiting women and children and refuse to be silent. We need to speak up about the realities women and girls face who are exploited through sex trafficking and educate the public on the impacts of exploitation. We have the power to put sex trafficking out of business if we challenge our federal, provincial and municipal governments on their efforts to end sex trafficking in Canada. Gender-based violence is a community issue, it requires action on all levels and we at YW strive to enable women to live free of violence in the community.

If you are at risk, or know someone who may be at risk, contact YW Calgary, Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, Alberta Victim Services, or the police.

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Recapping 2016 at YW Calgary

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As 2016 ends and we begin planning our goals and objectives for 2017, it’s important to take a moment and reflect on the year that’s ending. While some have dubbed 2016 a trash fire year, there are some important events and achievements to celebrate. In 2016, at YW Calgary we started our year welcoming the Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Veteran Affairs and MP for Calgary-Centre Kent Hehr, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and MP for Calgary-Skyview, Darshan Kang. During their visit, we highlighted the need for affordable housing that has been a consistent theme in Calgary and financial support for women and families who are struggling. The elected officials toured YW Mary Dover Transitional Housing and YW Winter Emergency Response program and learned more about how these programs support vulnerable women who are facing homelessness, poverty or domestic abuse.

On March 8th, we celebrated International Women’s Day and took stock of our progress towards gender equality along with providing a few considerations to help achieve our vision of women thriving in a safe and equitable community. Later in March, we responded to the results of the second annual Alberta Men’s Attitudes about Violence against Women Survey. The survey indicated that gender equity scores have increased in Calgary and provincially since the previous survey in 2012. There was also an overwhelmingly positive response from men with 97 per cent indicating that violence and abuse against women is a concern to them. While there remains a lot of work to be done, it’s positive to see change for the better among our community’s perceptions and understandings of violence against women.

As a community and as a country, we need to ensure women have personal security in their homes and communities and can participate in all aspects of life. A significant aspect of personal security means taking bigger steps, having louder voices and providing more education to stop the ever prevalent sexual and domestic abuse and violence perpetrated against women. We need to examine our justice system to create a structure that protects the victims coming forward and recognizes that there is no standard response during or after sexual assault.

The release of the federal budget posed promising improvements regarding homelessness and housing, which were the topics of several conversations with elected officials in 2016. Additionally, the federal government committed to the most significant investment in housing and homelessness Canada has seen in nearly 25 years. This coupled with additional funds for the construction and renovation of shelters and transitional houses for victims of family violence came at a time when Calgary and Alberta are facing the highest rates of domestic violence since 2004.

2016 also featured the release of our groundbreaking and pivotal Practice Framework. A framework that unifies our focus, articulates our stance on violence against women, women’s poverty and women’s homelessness. The framework was embraced by YW staff and each area of the organization completed a Practice Framework Part II document that aligned our beliefs and principles with each team’s everyday objectives. The Practice Framework impacts how we position ourselves now and into the future while using evidence-based good practices that enable us to serve more effectively and more wholly.

Throughout 2016, we experienced overwhelmingly positive responses to our signature events with two events exceeding their fundraising goals. The commitment of Calgarians to YW, especially during economic hardship, is inspiring and humbling. The 6th annual YWhisper Fundraising Gala featured ‘patient zero’ for cyberbullying, Monica Lewinsky, who delivered a powerful speech and message on clicking with compassion. Ms. Lewinsky touched on how common it is for us to view stories of humiliation which feed into our culture of humiliation and encouraged attendees to help end this blood sport. Our 11th annual Walk A Mile event also surpassed its goal and despite less than favourable weather conditions, over 200 participants came ready to walk and support vulnerable women in Calgary. Our Celebrate event had a great turnout from the community and connected incredible women and men in the community in honour of International Women’s Day! Keep A Roof Over Their Heads participants learned about the barriers women experiencing homelessness face, followed by spending the night on a cot in our former gymnasium which is also where our winter shelter is located. The event was very successful and participants left with a new perspective and understanding of women’s homelessness.

Finally, we capped 2016 off with the launch of a new, refreshed personality and brand that defines who we are now as a catalyst. Our new brand positions us as warriors and advocates and demonstrates our work to intervene, empower and lead when and where women need us most. Our latest evolution is women-centred, brighter-future focused illustrates our work to provide services that support women to gain control of their lives, become economically secure and live free of violence. We are not constrained by rules and we will not be silent on issues affecting women’s equity. We are loud, bold and unwavering in our support of women while remaining compassionate and forthright in all we do.

While no one can predict the challenges and opportunities we will face in 2017, we know that we are ready, focused and committed to advocating for women and their families while working to create brighter communities in our city. As we say goodbye to 2016, we are ready to embrace 2017 with open hands ready to work.

Happy New Year.

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The Joyous Season of Stress

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Every year, the beginning of December marks the start of a month that is supposed to be joyful and full of cheer. The season of festive dinners, gift giving and spending time with loved ones. Though commercials played across the internet, television and radio would have you believe the season is a dream; it is only a dream for some and a nightmare for others. For many families, the holidays are a time of stress, significant financial challenges and worry. Women and their children, who are struggling with abuse, poverty or homelessness often face increased challenges and stress during this holiday season making this time of year even harder. Meanwhile, others are struggling to find a balance between shopping for everyone on their list and time to spend with loved ones, struggling to pay rent, buy groceries or heat their homes.

With the economic downturn here and Alberta’s unemployment rate surging to 9 per cent, Calgarians are finding they have less and less to spend this holiday season and some are no longer able to make ends meet after months without work.

Women are at a higher risk of poverty as they make up the majority of low-wage earners with 61 per cent of Alberta’s minimum wage earners being women. At YW, we know that the face of poverty is a woman’s face and when women live in poverty, so do her children. We also recognize the pressure that mothers face during the holidays with the expectation of creating Pinterest perfect holidays. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that women were more stressed during the holiday season and only 25 per cent felt they were able to relax and enjoy the holidays.

This time of year brings expectations for spending joyous time with family and friends. For women recently divorced, newly single or new to the city, the loneliness at this time of year can make it anything but joyous There is pressure to be festive with window decorations on every street and holiday music playing everywhere. There is pressure to buy presents for loved ones and for those with limited funds the guilt of not being able to afford to participate in gift giving can create huge anxiety and sadness

YW Calgary recognizes the unfair pressure and stress mothers face during this holiday season and we’re fortunate enough to be able to provide opportunities for some families to partake in holiday activities. The YW Child Support program recently hosted holiday craft making and learned more about holiday traditions around the world. Additionally, through the support of our donors we created a holiday toy store at the YW Sheriff King Home crisis shelter as well as at the YW downtown facility where mothers staying with us came to ‘shop’ for their children’s gifts. Our fantastic team provided wrapping, ribbons, coffee and chocolate while the women picked out gifts for their families. The women expressed their happiness at being able to provide these gifts for the children just like ‘other mothers’.

This holiday season, let’s all commit to lowering each other stress levels, our expectations of a perfect holiday and look to find a way to give back to our community and those who need our help most. Through YW you can; help her out of homelessness; out of poverty; and out of abuse. Your donation creates brighter futures for everyone. If you can, please donate today.

Seasons Greetings from our team at YW Calgary to you and your families.

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106 Years of Change

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Birthdays for most bring a time of celebration and reflection on the last year. It is often a time when one begins looking forward to what the next year may hold. There is excitement and anticipation for the experiences to come and the milestones to celebrate. Today, at YW Calgary we are celebrating our 106th birthday. In 1910, on December 16 the YWCA was incorporated by four forward-thinking Calgary women who wanted safe and secure accommodation for women in Calgary. The theme of safety and security continues to be present in the current activities of the organization and the hopes and goals we carry forward. As we plan for our future, let’s take a trip down memory lane and celebrate our past.

In 1907, a young woman arrived by train in Calgary and looked for a place to stay. She went to all the boarding houses and hostels and finally began knocking on doors of private residences, but she could not find a room. At that time, young women were considered undesirable boarders because they used more electricity and water to do laundry and bathe than men.  Finally, this young woman found a safe place with Elizabeth (nee Boyd) McDougall.

The next day, McDougall met with her friends Emily Spencer Kerby and Alice Jamieson at the Central Methodist Church and they agreed something had to be done about the lack of accommodations available in the growing city to young single girls. The women decided to form a Young Women’s Christian Association to address the urgent need for accommodations for young women.

In 1911, Calgarians attended the grand opening of the first YWCA building. According to news reports, hundreds attended the opening and, upon request brought gifts of linens and books. The YWCA added a YWCA Banff Chalet and established Camp Kinnard in addition to rebuilding on the original 12th Avenue site in the 1950s. Finally, in the 1970s, YWCA built the facility it’s currently located in and opened a women’s resource centre.

Over the 100 year history of YW Calgary, we have provided Traveller’s aid and English instruction for “foreigners” and advocated for women and their families on a variety of issues. We have welcomed war brides and helped find homes for returning servicemen, we have spoken up sex education in schools, offered swim classes for women – who are that time could not swim at YMCA for reasons of ‘modesty’, people with disabilities and operated an emergency shelter for women and their children fleeing abuse since the 1980s.

As the needs of women in Calgary change, we have long remained agile and nimble to meet their needs when and where they need us most. We advocate to transform social issues and empower people to use their voices and feel empowered to effect change. We view change as duty and advocate with tenacity

We are unwavering in our services that support women to gain control of their lives, achieve economic security and live free of violence. As we enter our 106th year, we consider our next evolution. We will continue to respond to the needs of women in our community and work to create brighter futures for everyone. We will continue to focus on empowering women to move from a place of vulnerability to one of resilience; we will celebrate and activate a new brand that demonstrates our history while celebrating our continued growth; we will stand proud of our accomplishments over the last 105 years. We, at YW Calgary, have always been warriors and advocates and we believe in creating a better future for women and ultimately everyone in a woman’s life.


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