Tag Archives: Social Justice

World Day of Social Justice: In Conversation with a Grassroots Social Justice Activist

20 Feb

In 2007, the United Nations’ General Assembly declared February 20th as the World Day of Social Justice. On this day, each member state celebrates activities promoting gender equality, promoting the rights of indigenous people and migrants and removing barriers and challenging discrimination people face.

On a day committed to encouraging and celebrating social justice action, I was able to speak to a womyn who has devoted much of her life committed to grassroots social justice and making noise. Daniela Mergarten is part of the speaker’s bureau Voices from the Street, which involves people with direct experience as leaders in public education, advocating for social change and breaking down stigma.

On what Social Justice Work Means:

I came from an abusive background and there was limited support and information available at the time. I lost my whole family to violence and had to leave home at the age of 16. I always felt appreciative of the simple kindnesses people gave me along the way. As soon as I got healthier, I knew I wanted to give back.  Due to my experience, I have always felt connected and committed to speaking out on violence against womyn, poverty, homelessness and mental health.

On when she first became involved with Social Justice Work:

I didn’t know about feminism back then, and I started to notice and get involved in the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. That was back when they were sending buses of womyn up to Ottawa. It was the first time I saw womyn in unity and the power of womyn. It was womyn working together for a common cause.

women's rights mural

On a highlight from doing Social Justice Work:

One of my biggest moments was when I got to go to the “World’s Urban Forum” in Vancouver. During the forum I presented a report that I had worked on about poverty and homelessness. It was really important to present womyn’s voices as they were. I was also able to see womyn from countries all over the world, and I noticed our problems here aren’t just our problems. They are world-wide. I was inspired by seeing the difference womyn were making in their own communities all over.

On what inspires her Social Justice Work:

Being a part of Voices from the Street has given me hope. Hope we can change and hope we can connect. The more I go out, the more I see youth out doing social justice work. We are not leaving youth with much, and I think it is important to validate the work that youth are doing.  Youth will kick some but and I will be right there behind them.

On World Social Justice Day, Nellie’s celebrates the grassroots work womyn, such as Daniela, do in the community to promote social justice and challenge barriers. Nellie’s is committed to social justice work that is informed by the experiences of womyn and children.  The Social Justice Committee is committed to developing policies in areas of violence, poverty and oppression, speak on and participate in broader social justice issues and work through community partnerships and coalitions to achieve social justice for all womyn and children. The Social Justice Committee is one way people can get involved in social justice work, which recruits in July of every year.


Poverty Has A Woman’s Face

12 Apr

1 in 7 women in Canada live in poverty. Women earn just 76% of a man’s wage. More often than not women who are poor are faced with choosing between paying their rent or feeding their children.

Nowhere else is this more evident than at Nellie’s. In 2008, Nellie’s delivered 1,331 meals through our weekly food program –“Supper Surprise”. Last year, that number hit 1,810 – a 26 per cent increase, with an average of 71 families relying on this program for weekly food supplements.


What does Poverty look like for the clients at Nellies? This is what women had to say at W.E.A.V our Women Ending Violence Support Group

  • “Working everyday 2 or even 3 jobs and we don’t make enough to put food on our table every day.”
  • “Sometimes I don’t eat dinner—that way my kids have enough.”
  • “Poverty, struggling to survive, trying to stay alive.”
  • “Homeless, living on the street, trying to find something to eat.”
  • “Depressed, angry, hungry, frustrated, lonely and isolated.”
  • “You can’t get money and you can’t find a job and that’s sad.”

Many factors cause women’s poverty including: lack of access to education, opportunities, childcare and fair income, sex-role stereotypes in paid work, changes in family composition such as divorce, health, violence and abuse, leaving gainful employment to caregive, and greater risk and increased poverty for women who are Aboriginal, non-white, disAbled or queer.

Women as the face of poverty results in children who are poor. Poverty among children is strongly linked to ill-health and poor academic achievement. By keeping women poor, we are also keeping children poor, making them sick, sabotaging their futures, contributing to crime, and perpetuating the cycle of poverty and violence. We need to work together to effect change social changes that will help not just some, but all women and children to succeed.

Introducing Nellie’s Social Justice Series

26 Jan

Nellie’s mission reflects our vision for social change through education and advocacy, to achieve social justice for all women and children. This year we’re very excited to launch a new blog series that will focus on  this work  through the action and accomplishments of Nellie’s Social Justice Committee.

The Social Justice Committee is comprised of staff and community volunteers who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in areas such as feminism, anti-oppression training, counselling, education, advocacy, business, law, program management, and journalism.  Members meet every month to: discuss relevant issues; conduct research; develop Nellie’s position papers; plan and attend social justice community events and action; work with various community partners to build coalitions; engage in public policy consultations; and raise awareness on racism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, colonialism, and sexism and how these issues impact women and children.

In 2011, some key committee accomplishments of the committee included:

– Attendance at Community Events including Take Back the Night, International Women’s Day March and Fair, Dyke March, and Toronto Pride Week

Community Election Forum and Poverty Reduction Forum for women at the shelter and in the community

– Presentation of Nellie’s Women and Mental Health Position Paper at the Psych Out Conference in New York

-Research and writing of Nellie’s Women & Accessibility Paper that is scheduled to be released in April 2012

All the work done by the committee is rooted in the community and informed by the experiences of the women and children we work with.  The events we participate in and plan seek to engage and empower residents and clients of Nellie’s to use their voice to speak out and participate in change, all while moving towards our goal of economic and political equality for all women and children.

This year Nellie’s Social Justice Committee will be providing a formal blog update once a month on Thursdays.  Our first blog series will be out in February for Black History Month.

Stay tuned!  If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of our posts, you can subscribe to our blog by clicking the link on the right.