A spotlight was shone on the problem of human trafficking at OPSEU’s biennial Women’s Conference. The Toronto conference, held Oct 25-27 under the banner “I AM,” also examined the resiliency of women dealing with homelessness and poverty across Ontario.
Karly Church a Crisis Intervention Counselor/Social Service Worker, revealed a sobering picture of human trafficking. Sharing her story of being a young woman caught up in the world of domestic sex trafficking, her struggles and triumphs affirming that there is hope in caring and in not giving up on victims.
Barbara Gosse the Chief Executive Officer at The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, shared the shocking statistics on the widespread tentacles that is extending across the country. As well as, the efforts by law enforcement and community organizations to help in the fight for the young who are being targeted.
Leah Denbok, a 19-year-old photography student at Sheridan College, invited conference goers into the world of homelessness through the eyes and the lens of her camera. Leah’s photos, videos and books, as well as her spoken narrative, showcased the humanness of those most overlooked on the streets.
Acting Provincial Women’s Committee Chair Bonnie Eddy told participants there is no doubt about the popularity of the PWC Conference.
“We received a record-breaking number of applications” Eddy said, “We are proud to host 202 of the 300 plus applicants at this year’s conference.
Eddy also told the conference that with female empowerment movement increasing, OPSEU’s PWC is committed to actively push for change across all sectors.
“We all agree that there is even a greater need for women to be in a space that allows them to meet, connect, learn and share,” Eddy said.
OPSEU President Smokey Thomas told the gathering that although the fight for women’s rights is far from over, every woman and man in OPSEU is united in winning the struggle.
“We stand with you shoulder to shoulder in solidarity and your struggles and your fight are our struggles and our fight.”
First Vice-President/Treasurer Eddy Almeida told the conference that it’s unacceptable that the gender pay gap still exists.
“Should the sisters not make the same as the brothers?” said Almeida to a rousing round of applause.
Region 3 RVP and Highest Ranking Woman in OPSEU Sara Labelle, congratulated the committee members for the work they do, and reassured conference goers of their place in their union and encouraged them to continue the fight for what is fair and right.
Participants at this year’s conference were asked to identify key issues on poverty in their individual region, and to develop action plans to fight the conservative agenda through partnership with other labour organizations in their communities.
The participants ended the conference with an exercise called “Diversity in a Fishbowl”, the exercise highlighted racial biases and stereotypes, and how they are reinforced and or challenged through daily conversations.
The PWC thanks all of those that attended and all of those that expressed interest. The support of OPSEU and the members is what drives the committee to do work that they do. The committee continues to empower women by addressing and raising awareness on the challenging issues they face daily in the workplace, the union and at home.
Eddy took the opportunity to further emphasize the commitment of the PWC to the women of OPSEU.
“It is our intent to formally request an increase of the numbers of attendees and a venue space big enough to accommodate all future applicants to the conference,” she said.