16 Days: Human Rights Day

10 Dec

Today, December 10th is Human Rights Day.  On December 10th 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which promotes the protection of human rights worldwide. Every year, a specific issue is highlighted. This year, the focus is on the right of all human beings to make their voices heard and to be included into the political decision-making process. This year’s theme is: “My Voice Counts”.

my voice counts 2012

Articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirm that all humans have the right to freedom of opinion and expression, to peaceful assembly and association, and to take part in the government.

People around the world have been making their voices heard in recent years, from the Arab protest to the Occupy Movement. Canada’s reputation as a country where human rights are respected took a backseat during the 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association identified human rights violations related to arbitrary arrests, degrading conditions of detention and abusive behaviour by police.

Recently, the Constance E. Hamilton Award on the Status of Women was awarded to Ceta Ramkhalawansingh, a formidable activist who advocates for the achievement of women’s equality in education, social housing, literacy, employment, reproductive choice and the elimination of violence against women. Her work, both at grassroots and international levels, is a prime example of the importance and potential influence of speaking up against social injustices.


Nellie’s is committed to provide resources for all women and children to have their voices heard. You can help Nellie’s accomplish this goal by:

  • Using the power of the social media with the hashtag #VoiceCount on Twitter to help spread the word on this important day and the message it carries.
  • Being involved in the political process and voting for the politician that you feel will best serve the interests the people, including the most marginalized.
  • Speaking up when you see instances of injustice around you.
  • Creating awareness by participating in social justice events in your community.

Freedom of speech is a right, exercise that right!


Nellie’s Second Annual Holiday Auction!

7 Dec

For the second year we are hosting an Online Holiday Auction in support of the women and children at Nellie’s! With amazing gifts from local businesses, we are proud to offer over 50 great items ranging from food, fitness, fashion and furniture!


Here are some of the great items we have up for auction:

1) Brooks Brothers $500 Gift Certificate and Fashion Consultation: Brooks Brothers is the 192-year-old company that has dressed nearly every American president from Lincoln to Kennedy to Obama and helped create costumes for Mad Men and Gossip Girl. This items is a $500 gift certificate for clothes, including a wardrobe consultation.  Perfect for the well-dressed man or woman in your life. Bid on this item here.

2) Tea for 2 with author Katherine Govier: Katherine Govier is the author of nine novels and three short story collections.  Her most recent novel The Ghost Brush is about the daughter of the famous Japanese printmaker, Hokusai, creator of The Great Wave. The winner of this item and a guest will visit The Royal York Hotel Library Bar with Katherine to enjoy tea, finger foods, delectable pastries, and great conversation.  Bid on this item here.

3) 5 Class Pass at Misfit Studio: Misfitstudio is where yoga’s centering calm gets spiced with a little rock and roll. Classes at MISFITSTUDIO are fun and creative. A change of pace, a flash of laughter and lots of music fuel a memorable class! The 5 class pass is valid for yoga, pilates or fusion classes. Bid on this item here.

4) Dinner for 4 from Santo Pecado Mexican Catering: Santo Pecado plays sinfully with the luscious flavours and textures from the Mexican Cuisine, respecting the sanctity of Abuela’s tradition.  Using the freshest ingredients and traditional family recipes, Santo Pecado will create the perfect dinner party experience for you and 3 of your friends.  Bid on this item here.

5) 2 Custom Box Deliveries from Front Door Organics: Front Door Organics has been delivering Toronto’s biggest selection and highest quality certified organic food, including fruit, vegetables, meat and more since 1997! Easy online ordering provides you with access to fresh healthy organic food – delivered right to your front door. Bid on this item here.

16 Days: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

6 Dec

It’s cold. I can feel the chill seeping into my feet. There’s also a pervasive, collective warmth that shares a familiar combination of sadness, anger and the motivation to fight back and create change.

Every year, we stand here, at the December 6th Vigil at Philosopher’s Walk, commemorating women who have lost their lives to violence. Almost everyone in attendance holds a candle. There are often a variety of speakers – poets, musicians, activists, advocates, survivors telling their stories and sometimes even a politician or two. It’s the same year after year. The feeling has evolved, but there’s something about it that remains constant.

The December 6th Vigil falls on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women; the anniversary of the Montréal Massacre where 14 women at Lecole Polytechnique were murdered at gunpoint – because they were women. Every year, there is a reading of these names as well as the names of other women and children who have lost their lives to violence in Ontario over the last year.


Every year, we say ‘never again’. For a moment, there is a collective hope and belief that there will never be another name added to the list again. Yet, every year, we add new markers and tell the stories of our sisters, mothers, aunts, friends, partners, neighbours, classmates and coworkers who have lost their lives, often brutally.

Then, of course, there are the women whose names never made it to the list. They were anonymous, unknown. Their deaths were attributed to other causes; their abusers unsuspected. Or, their deaths still haven’t been discovered. On this day, we mourn and remember, and as often quoted, then work for change.

Every year, the women at Nellie’s attend this vigil. One year, a woman who had just arrived at the shelter days earlier commented that she didn’t realize that it happened to so many other women. I could see tears in her eyes through the candlelight, as she whispered that she was glad that she left when she did, because… and she couldn’t finish that sentence.

The vigil leaves a lump in your throat and sadness in your heart. It reminds us of the women we’ve known who’ve lost their lives. It is a reminder that the difference between life and death for a woman in an abusive relationship is often just one more fight, one disagreement, or often, an attempt to leave.

dec 6 posts

At some point during the vigil most women remember their own stories of violence and remind themselves what a gift it is to still be alive, to have survived, somehow, and to still have that opportunity to fight for change; to end violence against women.

And, that’s what we need to do. We need to join forces and work together to create change and work towards ending violence against women. Join your local feminist organization if you haven’t already and take action. Lobby, protest, talk, discuss, create safety plans, support women, advocate, create dialogue, challenge notions and comments that perpetuate violence against women. Recognize systemic causes of violence and oppression such as sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and oppression based on record of offences, immigration status and life experiences. Talk; perpetuate an awareness and understanding of violence against women. Most of all; do something. At the end of the vigil, we scream. We scream for ourselves, and for those who can’t.

Let us unite in solidarity to end violence against women. Mourn and remember those who have passed and fight for those who still have a chance.

16 Days: International Volunteer Day

5 Dec

Today is International Volunteer Day and we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who kindly gives their time, energy and talents to help us with the work we do at Nellie’s.  From our Wednesday night supper drop-in volunteers who lovingly prepare healthy and delicious food for 60 women every week, to our administration volunteers who help with office tasks, events, and fundraising, every volunteer at Nellie’s makes a truly valuable contribution to our organization.

Here are some of the volunteers who have made a difference to the women and children at Nellie’s this year:

IMG_0080(Nellie’s Board of Directors)

socJusticeCommittee1(Members of Nellie’s Social Justice Commitee with staff)

DSCN7383(Our 2012 volunteer and student orientation)

Volunteer(Nellie’s Outreach Program Volunteers)

16 Days: International Day of Persons with Disabilities

3 Dec

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  In 1992, after The United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992), the UN General Assembly proclaimed December 3rd as the International Day of Disabled Persons.  On December 18, 2007, the name was changed from the “International Day of Disabled Persons” to the “International Day of Persons with Disabilities”.

The theme of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities this year is “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all”. According to Statistics Canada Participation and Activities Limitation Survey, “Approximately 1.5 million people in Ontario have disabilities, representing 13.5 percent of Ontario’s population.”  While statistics can be a useful tool, they do not represent the whole picture.  Disability is a very fluid concept and for some, a label they do not identify with.  This is particularly true for people in the Deaf community who do not identify as having a disability.

sign language

A culturally Deaf person is a person for whom sign language is their first language.  According to the Deaf Culture Centre,  “The Deaf community is comprised of culturally Deaf people in the core of the community who use a sign language (e.g. American Sign Language or Langue des Signes Quebecois) and appreciate their heritage, history, literature, and culture. The Deaf community is also comprised of other individuals who use the language and have an attitude that makes them an accepted part of the community though they may not be in the core of the community.”  Rather than seeing deafness as a disability, being deaf is just like speaking another language.

At some point in our lives we may all experience a disability, whether mental or physical. Today, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, take some time to reflect on what disability means to you and how you experience it in your life.  Let us also acknowledge and admire the many amazing contributions made to our society by those who have transformed disability into something beautiful that moves the human spirit, like dancer Spirit Synott.

Drop off Infant Care Items at the Jones & Gerrard Starbucks

30 Nov

Coming to the shelter as a new or expecting mom is never easy. Leaving situations of violence and abuse, many women come to Nellie’s in the hopes of beginning new lives for themselves and their children.

This holiday season our friends at Starbucks are collecting infant care items to support the moms and babies at Nellie’s. Throughout December you can drop off baby toiletries, diapers, food and formula at the Jones and Gerrard Store, 1062 Gerrard Street East.

Here’s the latest donation that arrived at Nellie’s yesterday. Thank you to all who have contributed so far!

Baby Donation Starbucks

16 Days: The Voices of Women During Conflict

28 Nov

The theme of this year’s 16 Days to End Gender Violence Campaign is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!  Today, we share the personal story of Madeleine, one of Nellie’s staff, who experienced violence during the civil war in her home country of Somalia.

On New Year’s day of 1991, in my native birthland, Somalia, rebel forces began their fight against the ruling dictatorship. Revolution had begun in my country and we all were filled with hope for change. As the months passed, and the old regime fled, there was no government, police or anyone left to protect the people. Lawlessness ensued. The rebel forces made up of young boy soldiers began to pillage, rape, riot and shoot anyone they could find.

I was fortunate enough to live in an enclosed home which kept us fairly safe in the capital of Mogidishu. Every day, soldiers fueled by drugs ran around crazed, and each day dozens of bullets ended up in my garden. Over these next few months, gunfire, missiles and the endless screaming from women being raped kept me awake.

We were very aware of the rampant rape and killing of women and children as a means of tribal warfare and retribution. When I heard that soldiers had forced family members, a young man to rape his own grandmother, I truly felt that humanity had left us. With every opportunity we had, we travelled in groups to visit the women we knew who were alone, to check on them, and try to get them to safety

Nothing made sense anymore, our children were destroyed in masses recruited as child soldiers and fed drugs to commit atrocities including killing other children. Women suffered disproportionately through rape and murder. And the suffering didn’t end there. The women who survived and became pregnant were often forced to relocate to survive, and their children were never recognised by society.

Thankfully, I was able to leave once flights were available. The Mogidishu I grew up in was once the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, now as I looked out the window, I was leaving behind just smoke and rubble. As I was leaving my country, the plane raced down the runway because it was flanked on both sides by soldiers shooting and preparing to bomb us. Thankfully we made it out of there alive and I eventually settled with my family in Canada.

Today, 20 years later, I panic and freeze every time I hear a fire-truck or ambulance siren. They sound just like missiles screaming through the air. Unless you have lived through a war, you will never understand. But I believe that life is strong and we go on living.