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NAWN focused on Indigenous violence prevention

Odelle Pike of the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network. – © Submitted photo

By Jaymie L. White

Special to the Appalachian

STEPHENVILLE — Last month the province earmarked $241,500 for 14 projects through the Indigenous Violence Prevention Grants Program. The program supports Newfoundland and Labrador’s Indigenous organizations to prevent violence against Indigenous women and children while engaging Indigenous men and boys in violence prevention. The grant amounts range from approximately $8,300 to $27,500, and cover a wide range of strategies.

Angela Picco is the media contact with the Office of Women and Gender Equality, and issued the following statement in response to e-mail inquiries.

“The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is committed to creating a province that is safe for all people. Community agencies, Indigenous groups, and grassroots organizations are key partners in the ongoing work to prevent gender-based violence.

Projects eligible to receive funding through the Indigenous Violence Prevention Grants Program include initiatives focused on developing public awareness and education materials; providing violence prevention training for community members and service providers; improving programs and services at shelters for Indigenous women; and supporting the transmission of cultural knowledge and language with the objective of reducing violence. Any Indigenous group or organization can apply for funding. Only Indigenous groups and organizations are eligible to apply, but other organizations may be project partners

Funding for the Indigenous Violence Prevention Grants Program is made available through the Office of Women and Gender Equality. Since 2005, over $3.2 million in project funding has been awarded to Indigenous groups and organizations to assist with culturally appropriate violence prevention work in Indigenous communities. The Indigenous Violence Prevention Grants Program is an annual granting program.”

Odelle Pike with the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network (NAWN) said funding is essential to be able to provide help to those in need in the community.

“We’re always looking for money because the demand is so great and even more so since the pandemic. Right now in our western area, Bay St. George, we’ve had a 60 per cent increase in domestic violence since the pandemic has started and because of that we have a lot more women who are in dire need of supports.”

That’s a staggering increase, and Pike said violence is more prevalent than people realize. Violence is not just happening in this region, but all across the province and country.

“Making women aware of what their rights are and that they don’t deserve it, it’s something that we have to promote because there’s a great demand. Knowledge is power – educating our women about what their rights are and letting them know they’re not alone. There’s different paths they can take to recover their self-worth again.”

Pike said that NAWN always applies for grants that are available to help, and this month alone they have applied for four or five different projects.

“We do get core funding from our provincial government, but it’s not enough to do everything that has to be done in the area. Right now, the project that we applied for with this funding is that we realize our men are hurting also and we know that the men are the ones that are causing most of the abuse – although there are women that abuse also – but the majority are male, and we’ve made a conscious decision to start working with the men.”

There has already been one session involving 16 women and 16 men, and Pike said the men must be part of the solution.

“We’ve partnered with the Friendship Center here and we are going to be doing some land-based teachings and training with our men. That’s a project we’re going to be doing. COVID is in the way again, but hopefully we’ll get through.”

Along with the rise in domestic violence, mental health issues have also increased.

“We have a very serious issue right now with mental health. We just got funding for a counselor and a peer facilitator to work in the office because we are getting so many calls for mental health. We are also doing circles online to keep the women engaged and in-touch because a lot of those women are isolated and have very little resources in some of the communities. We are trying our best to keep them healthy, but with mental health right now we are at a crisis.”

Pike said that as a provincial organization, NAWN has seven women’s groups across the island to facilitate programs, all of whom get some of the funding they have available, even if it’s not very much.

“We’d love to be able to help support all of our women’s groups in the different areas and we try our best. Sometimes there’s a bigger need in one area than another, and depending on what’s going on at the time, is where we will put our resources.”

Representatives with NAWN are currently collaborating with the provincial government to try and develop good communication between them and women’s groups across the province discuss ways to get for justice for the MMIW (Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women).

“We spent three days in December with the government and all the different women’s groups and organizations from all across the island and Labrador, and we hashed out what we see needs to be worked on.”

They are currently in the process of getting the transition house in Stephenville, and the proposal they have in is scheduled for Tuesday, Mar. 1. Pike is hopeful for a positive answer so NAWN can get it started.

“Right now, women fleeing violence have nowhere to go. There are very few housing opportunities for Stephenville. We have to work very hard to find accommodations for all those people and it’s not always easy.”

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