Great speakers have an ability to bring you into their stories so you feel as if you’re there. Gone are the fold-out chairs symmetrically lined in their semi-circle rows. Gone are the microphones and lights and seatmates. Great story tellers don’t just tell us the facts, they share with us the moments.
For I am right now in Iran, folding my child within me, grasping my boombox and putting my faith in a smuggler.
I am standing at a door in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, contemplating whether I grab that handle or run.
I am in Calcutta (or the Congo or Zimbabwe) talking to women who, since childhood, have been raped, married off, beaten brutally. I see their scars, their pain and torture, but also their light, their vibrancy and brilliance.
These are the stories I heard last night at the Howe Sound Women Centre’s 30th anniversary Gala. First an amazing story from local woman Mina Dickinson’s escape from Iran with her young daughter in the seventies. She goes on to tell us enormous challenges upon arriving in a new country, but with the support, guidance (and a winter coat) from one Canadian woman, she finds her way, paving her path of paying it forward to so many other woman.
Katrina Pacey shared with us her incredible journey from aimless student to lawyer and passionate advocate for women’s rights especially for the most marginalized women living in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. Through poignant pictures and intimate stories of two women, two leaders, who have influenced her own impassioned work.
Lastly, the formidable Stephen Lewis takes the stage. First with laughter, mocking BC politics and making light of his 34 honorary degrees, then transitioning into the plight of women around the world. The things this man has seen is quite frankly, overwhelming. Again, this is not a talk of facts or statistics. This is a man presenting a vivid tale of tin roofs, dirt floors and shattered women bravely sharing their stories in hopes of change. Women, who against all odds, can still find moments of joy and laughter. With that, hope exists.
With passion and energy, all three speakers had me transported into the lives of women I otherwise may not know. But one things strikes me. I may not know much about Iran, but I know what I would do to protect my baby. I do not know any sex workers, but I know what it is to want my voice heard. I have not been raped, but I almost was and I know what it is to feel violated. These stories are my stories and your stories and our stories.
Great speakers remind us of that, so thank you all.