Why YWCA Hamilton’s Walk Mile in Her Shoes matters, this year more than ever

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It’s been called the “Shadow Pandemic.”

As the world has faced lockdowns to the Covid-19 pandemic, violence against women and girls at the hands of an intimate partner has intensified.

We are already aware that violence in the home increases when families spend time together, including during holidays and school breaks.

But the added stresses of Covid 19-related lockdowns – including cramped living quarters, feelings of frustration and confinement, and worries about finances or job losses – have triggered a surge of intimate partner violence, both worldwide and here in Hamilton.

Globally, 243 million women and girls age 15-49 have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence perpetrated by an intimate partner in the past 12 months. That number has soared since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report from UN Women.

Here at home, CBC Hamilton reports that from May 17 to June 4 of this year, calls to police about violence in the home have increased 4.6 per cent over that same period in 2019.

“What we hear from women is that abuse is escalating in the homes, but the options and opportunities to get out are marginal,” YWCA Hamilton director of operations Medora Uppal told the CBC.

The effects of intimate partner violence can be so traumatic that some experts are now using the term “intimate terrorism” to describe the experience.

YWCA Hamilton is on the frontlines of the fight against violence against women. A key part of our services is offering “second-stage” housing – the step between an emergency shelter and independent living – to single women through our Transitional Living Program, and to families via Phoenix Place. Our goal is to help women fleeing violence feel safe, offer counseling, and provide training and support to enable them to thrive on their own.

For the past ten years, YWCA Hamilton has hosted Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a rally and march held to raise awareness about violence against women. Funds raised during Walk a Mile in Her Shoes provide vital support to our programming. Last year, we raised over $152,000.

A man in red high heels holds hands with a little boy also wearing red high heels
Past participants of Walk A Mile in Her Shoes have joined us at City Hall for a march and rally.

With large gatherings suspended to prevent the spread of Covid-19, we can’t proceed as usual this year. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need your help.

In August, we will be launching our first ever Virtual Walk Week. Instead of gathering together, we’re encouraging participants to walk a mile their way – wherever and however they walk. We’ll be offering fun ways to participate from home and to connect virtually with fellow walkers.

The format of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes may be different this year, but the need remains the same – and in fact, funding needs have increased. The global cost of violence against women had previously been estimated at approximately $1.5 trillion (USD) – an amount that will continue to climb as violence increases due to Covid-19.

Please, join us for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes as an individual walker or create your own team. Every step makes a difference.

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