From Christa Blizzard, a resident of Fredericton, N.B.:
The Advisory Council on the Status of Women has been a beacon of hope for the women of New Brunswick, by ensuring that attention is given to real issues that affect women in this province. I have been reading the weekly newsletters and attending as many events as I can for the last few years now, and I just want to share a few things that I have learned from them.
First of all, I learned that NB has a strong community that supports each other and cares about the welfare of its most vulnerable members. I can’t express how much it means to me to know that there is a group of people talking about equality and women’s rights on a regular basis. Going to the events and gathering with a bunch of people who care about issues of inequality that are still overwhelmingly affecting the lives of women, is something that has given me a great sense of hope. It tells me that feminism and gender issues are not being hidden or ignored.
Second, I am reassured that those who pay attention have not bought into myth that men and women are now equal. But most importantly, I’ve learned that there are lots of people paying attention. As a student of Sociology, I have had my eyes opened to many deeply socially ingrained inequalities, and it is very difficult to carry the weight of such hard realities on your shoulders all the time. The ACSW has helped me carry that burden by constantly reminding me that there are people working for progress and change, who are willing to speak up and fight for justice and equality. I also feel that they have given me strength and agency and helped me find my own voice in this struggle, by giving me knowledge and showing me that many women in NB and all over the world are fighting back against oppression.
Third, I have felt assured and confident that there is an independent voice speaking up for women in NB. It is one that does not shy away from tough issues, and is not afraid to call out the government when there is injustice and ignorance harming our communities. Patriarchy and feminism seem like dirty words in today’s society. It is so reassuring and wonderful to know that feminism is alive and well in NB, and that structures of patriarchy are being acknowledged and challenged. The ACSW has been at the frontline, identifying these issues and finding better ways for us to live peacefully and equally.
Finally, I want to focus on the attention the council has given to violence against women. The reality is that many women have been, are, or are at risk of being victims of male violence. There are so many of us here in NB who have been affected greatly by violence against women and yet so many of us still feel isolated or alone. There are feelings of fear, shame, helplessness/ hopelessness, depression and anger that seep into our everyday lives because of the ongoing pain and abuse that women are subjected to. Many voices have been permanently silenced and many more are limited by their positions and/ or their situations, and that is why having an independent voice speaking for these women and their families is so crucial and necessary for the progress of women’s safety and women’s rights.
The political is personal. Without organizations like the NBACSW questioning the structures of our society and demanding equality for all of its members, this fact is likely to be ignored by our government, as it has been for so long already. Our government must be held accountable to the women of NB and I feel strongly that the NBACSW has been doing that job well. They should be allowed to continue that work. For our government to ignore the crucial work that the NBACSW is doing for NB is a shame, and if we lose this service, we are being pushed several huge steps backwards in the fight for equality. Use your voice and stand up for the NBACSW before it is too late.