I come from Vietnam. When I sit around the table with my family there, we talk about the day-to-day struggles faced by the poor, such as finding work and health care. In a world where many people’s basic needs are not being met, who has time to talk about feminism?
Many of the women we work with at Bonnie’s are consumed by these same social concerns. When you are facing domestic violence, homelessness, poverty and unemployment, and all your belongings are what you can carry, feminism may well not make it to the dining table for discussion.
Indeed, during our many meetings with clients, we rarely discuss gender equality. It’s not that these women don’t care. But that they are plagued with worries about putting food on the table, finding a safe place to live, looking for work, paying for their children’s school expenses and rising utility bills and finishing their studies.
These women have taught me that there are many ways to be a feminist: their strength to leave; their perseverance to stay; their resilience in the face of unspeakable suffering; the sacrifices they make for their children; the courage to make difficult choices, that sometimes mean leaving everything behind in order to create a new safer life. For these women, feminism is about asserting their right to make decisions for themselves. Our role at Bonnie’s is to create a safe environment in which their voices can be heard. Sometimes women may make a choice that we feel is less desirable. We will have our doors open if they need us again.
One women who left our service recently said to me, “I am not used to making choices for myself, and at times I am scared to do so, but now I know I have choices. When I am ready, I know I can reach out again for help.”
They may not be discussing it at the dining table or proclaiming it from the rooftops, but these women are living feminism by making choices every day that are best for them and their children. We are honoured to walk alongside them on their journeys.
Written by An