It is always a challenge and a delicate balancing act to move an organization forward that is focused both on providing direct essential services to women and youth, and on pushing for social change. This is even more difficult in this historical period as we find ourselves in a political climate where business welfare is the centre of concern and human welfare is accorded little value.
The challenge that WAVAW rises to readily is ensuring excellent quality of all of our services to those women and youth who seek our support post sexual assault. We ensure that all staff is supported with both in-house clinical supervision and Executive Director supervision, along with professional training and involvement in social change activities that range from educational workshops to systemic advocacy and political rallies. All of the support, educational and social change work is informed by knowledge gained from engagement with clients and community members, training and professional education, and the engaged and informative dialogues in our workplace; dialogues that arise from keeping informed about media, culture and political trends that impact women, our work and our world. The result is a staff team that is well informed, prepared and eager to provide the best quality services.
After 29 years in Vancouver we are still as relevant and necessary as the day we started in 1983, if not more so. A rape crisis centre is one of the few places that offer security and safety for women to work through a sexual assault. Women who are in need of our various services rely on other women who will believe them, support them, and allow for the shared understanding that the root cause of the violence they experience is outside of us. We make sense of violence against women in our society by centering each woman’s lived experience in a feminist framework that addresses the intersections of all the oppressions and allows for understanding of our collective experience as self-identified women in a rape culture. Supporting women’s connection with the collective of women is a unique and critical element of our services, for in doing so, we are challenging our society’s movement to keep women in competition and divided from one another.
Volunteers specifically choose to join WAVAW because we are a feminist anti-violence organization that they too can be part of. Volunteers not only join WAVAW to be able to support survivors on the crisis line but to also be part of one of the few intentional socio-political spaces for women to experience social justice whether or not they received justice from the criminal justice system. The value of maintaining safe spaces for women to experience social justice is part of the investment that our donors and partners so very enthusiastically support. This year through our new monthly donor program, the Social Change Investors, donors have highlighted and encouraged the sense of urgency and importance of our rape crisis centre.
The dedication of our donors has been a large part of our financial sustainability and we are sincerely grateful for the outpouring of generosity not only this past year but for the past three decades. Thank you for trusting us to do the good work that will make our society safe and just.
The highlight of our work internally was the development of our 3 year strategic plan. The process was challenging but we ended up with a plan that was inclusive of community, client, staff, and volunteer feedback and support. We are eager and hopeful that all our dreams and visions for WAVAW will come to fruition. I am confident that with the amazing talents and energy of the feminist women that make up our organization, we will realize even more than what we put down on paper.
This year has also been a challenge in that we were constantly bombarded with messages from governments, universities, foundations, business interests and consultants of all labels, that the social services organizations must become independent businesses that generate income from selling a good or service in order to be financially independent and as a result considered as socially valuable. This is the new capitalist ideal for not-for profits. Anything less has been characterized by these business proponents as “dependent, not sustainable, not valuable, not professional or successful, and certainly lacking any signs of leadership or vision.” This is at best false and indeed is an attack on the services that are essential to women’s lives and well-being that were once supported fully by social democratic governments. Social democratic governments that helped make our society more than just an individual effort at survival. We have seen foundations and governments that once supported women’s services divert their financial support to promote, educate, and train on the virtues of social enterprise. The outcome of this investment is unclear, not evidence-based, and does not guarantee financial success for organizations that run a business.
On the one hand we see funds diverted to support social enterprise business ventures, and we are told that being dependent on donations and government is “uncharitable” and unsustainable. On the other hand we see an unprecedented amount of fundraising dollars being raised for political parties. In Canada it translates to hundreds of millions and in the USA we are talking about billions. The double standard is not only ironic but is also cause for concern.
WAVAW as an organization is neither independent nor dependent, but like humans, WAVAW is interdependent. We are supported by government funding, business donations and foremost we are financially supported by the generosity of individual donors. In return, we offer women, youth, children, and our community the support needed to move from trauma to healing. Ending sexualized violence will always remain a collective responsibility and it will take a collective effort to end. This is the business that we are committed to. This is the important business of a healthy world. And this is what we are committed to continuing.
Thank you to our volunteer board of directors, our staff and our volunteers.
Again, thank you to all our donors and partners.
Irene Tsepnopoulos-Elhaimer – Executive Director
Executive Director’s Message taken from WAVAW’s 2011-2012 Annual General Report