by Nupur Gogia
In 1978, one woman had a vision - one that started with support groups for women who worked on changing their personal lives and on connecting these changes with those that were needed in their communities. Sally Cross took this vision and these groups and evolved them into Education Wife Assault. Fourteen years later, Education Wife Assault is actively raising awareness on issues of wife assault and woman abuse and working together with community groups, government ministries, hospitals and community health clinics, students and women who have been abused, in the prevention of violence against women.
A staff of seven women (including women on contract and women on training), students, and dedicated volunteers are the foundation of Education Wife Assault, which operates as the only organization in Canada whose sole focus is training and education based on preventing men's violence against women and its impact on women, children and society. With a variety of budgetary limitations, which include on-going work to sustain core funding and time spent on fund-raising, Education Wife Assault is responsible for a number of activities including: conducting workshops with a broad variety of groups (from school boards to women's centers); various publications (including a pamphlet in ten languages, fact sheets, articles, training manuals and two new handbooks in Urdu and Vietnamese); information and referrals about counseling, crisis and other support services; a newsletter; and a resource centre.
Education Wife Assault has always maintained that for any education or training to be effective, all resources have to be developed in conjunction with the communities they serve. One focus of Education Wife Assault's mandate is to work with various immigrant and refugee communities to produce resources serving these communities. The assumption behind these activities is that no project of outreach can be done without community consultations. Partnership is key to producing any materials.
Working under this assumption is not an easy task. For a long time, immigrant and refugee women have been kept out of projects and out of mainstream organizations by those who control these establishments - namely white, Canadian-born women and men. These organizations often operate as a reflection of the general society where predominantly white, english-speaking, able-bodied men control both the decision-making bodies and process. Frequently, the only time immigrant and refugee women are included in the agenda of mainstream organizations is through misguided notions of charity or political correctness. Both these notions assume a relationship based on dominance and control, which defines the managers/funders/coordinators of mainstream organizations (who are usually white) as having power over immigrant and refugee women. This relationship is further reinforced by racist and sexist immigration and accreditation policies which reject the education and work experience of immigrant and refugee women, particularly those coming from "developing" countries. Immigrant and refugee women are viewed as being incapable of producing resources even for their own communities and are often excluded from these initiatives.