By Julie Sobowale, Opinions Contributor
Recently the Dalhousie Women’s Centre (DWC) has come under criticism for disruptions in keeping the Centre open and lack of volunteer commitment. While I cannot predict what the future holds for the DWC, I do know what we need: more voices in the conversation.
I’ve worked as a DWC volunteer for the past two years. My most notable contribution has been my evaluation of DWC advocacy and policy as highlighted in my report at the end of the summer. The Gazette reported on the DWC’s struggles in an Oct. 8 article, “Dalhousie Women’s Centre fights to stay open.” I’ve also heard a few rumours floating around about poor DWC leadership and Centre operations. The only way to move forward is to speak out in public and confront any issues we have about running the Centre.
The staff completed significant work in the past in fighting for human rights. Centre volunteers have been involved in residence workshops, marches and letter campaigns. The most impressive cases I came across in my advocacy review was the Centre’s work with the Black Ribbon Campaign. In this case the Centre joined the Black Ribbon Coalition to protest the Halifax Regional School Board’s (HRSB) 2003 decision to remove the race relations coordinator position. The case eventually went to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission (NSHRB) in 2006, which found there was a human rights violation.
Another case that struck me was the staff’s involvement with *Pandora*, a Nova Scotia feminist magazine. Published in the early 1990s, the paper was nearly shut down when a human rights compliant was filed against them for failing to print a letter from a male reader. The Centre became a part of the Coalition in Support of Pandora and staff members helped coordinate public relations during the two-year ordeal. The magazine stayed open and the NSHRC found no human rights violations.
These cases demonstrate how our Centre can make an impact in our community. The coalitions were successful because of their shared commitment to fighting oppression. Our Centre contributed to that effort.
The purpose of my report was to discuss policy issues but to also encourage women to participate in the management and operation of the Centre. The best way to provoke change is to get involved. That includes taking responsibility. We the Dalhousie community, particularly women, must remember that this is our Centre. We as a group need to be engaged if we want to make a change.
We need the Centre more than ever. The so-called ‘Sleepwatcher and the recent posting of YouTube videos invading women’s privacy are disturbing. We still need to fight to make Dalhousie University an inclusive, supportive environment for women and men.
The best way to affect change is to come together and speak out. The recent DWC membership meeting in September was helpful but we need to move forward. The only way for this to happen is if people are willing to stand up and be leaders of the DWC.
The Centre will hold its annual general meeting on Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the Student Union Building. Where we go from here will be decided at the meeting. I encourage all who care about the Centre to attend. If we want the situation at the DWC to improve, we must participate in creating a stronger, more inclusive Centre.
Julie Sobowale is a DWC volunteer and former Editor-in-Chief of the Dalhousie Gazette.