When the Peterborough Singers decided to put on the much anticipated Canadian Women of Song concert, the talisman was inclusion and uplift—to include women from every genre of our musical canon and to share and lift their music on high. In this same spirit, the idea arose to highlight and promote women’s groups working in and around our community. At the Canadian Woman of Song concert on February 25, the Peterborough Singers will be hosting many of these women’s groups in the lobby of Calvary Church, so concert goers can have a chance to get to know or even support the amazing works these organizations provide for the community. This article is a behind-the-scenes look at the organizations that will be present on Saturday, a sort of dress rehearsal, if you will, showing the women’s organizations that this community fosters and that foster this community.
The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) strives to ensure that all girls and women have equal access to and opportunities for quality education and that this education takes place in a peaceful and secure environment. Membership is open to women who share the belief that lifelong learning should be fostered, that women’s equality and human rights require advocacy, and that change comes on local, national, and international levels in a spirit of cooperation and peace. The CFUW has a vision of a world where poverty is reduced, discrimination eliminated, and equal opportunities exist so all can maximize their potential.
The Elizabeth Fry Society has programs for all woman, empowering them to reduce social isolation, to gain coping tools to make healthy choices, and to break the cycle of violence. One of its focus areas is advocating and providing service for women who are on trial, incarcerated, or at risk with the law. Justice should be even and accessible, and the Elizabeth Fry Society helps to achieve both.
Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre offers 24/7 crisis support, weekend web chat, consultation, peer support, and both group and individual counselling. The centre not only heals but educates. Every year hundreds of people tell their stories of sexual violence in Peterborough, Northumberland, Haliburton, and Kawartha Lakes—to raise awareness and influence change. The crisis support line is 1-866-298-7778
Retired Women Teachers of Ontario (RWTO) celebrated its 60th anniversary last year. This vibrant social group brings together retired teachers for luncheons and interest groups, such as Book Worms, Bridge for Fun, and Merry Mattress Makers. The RWTO often organizes theatre and golf excursions. The RWTO is a wonderful way to get out into the community for fun and camaraderie. The group also supports local charities and events. Its motto says it all—“Caring and Sharing” is really the RWTO’s specialty.
Soroptimist International of Peterborough works to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. It is an international volunteer organization for women that addresses issues as diverse as creating strong self-esteem and a positive body image for young women, homelessness, domestic violence, poverty, trafficking, learning disabilities, and the aftermath of war and natural disaster. This group is based on the idea of women helping women. In Peterborough, the Soroptimists have supported the Cameron House shelter, The Elizabeth Fry Society, The “Happy Project” (an initiative that moves overstocked supplies from local stores to local shelters), the Human Trafficking Initiative, YWCA/CrossRoads, and the Gail Cowling Memorial Herb Garden, as well as many other projects.
Survivors Abreast is a group for woman who have had a breast cancer diagnosis and wish to improve their fitness or simply learn to paddle in the dragon boat style. The crew has travelled to many destinations to paddle and compete. Survivors Abreast also engages in raising awareness and funds to promote breast health and breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. As of 2016, the annual Peterborough Dragon Boat Festival hosted by the team has raised $2,991,636.69.
Women’s Business Network of Peterborough (WBN) is a networking tool for women who wish to connect and expand their business endeavours. From small business owners to writers and health care providers the WBN has evolved to include diverse and varied women all coming together to share knowledge and stories and promote their businesses.
I hope this brief synopsis of these amazing organizations will give you a taste of the integral work and vision each brings to our community. When you see their booths on the 25th, I encourage you to take the time to hear about the work they have done, the friendships they have established, and the changes they have made in our community, the country, and the world, as well as in the lives of individual women. We go to concerts to listen. Let’s listen to and learn about these initiatives too.
By Dylan Taylor