Student project aims to remember murdered Okanagan women

A Gender and Women's Studies class at UBC Okanagan is gathering information about women who have been murdered in the Okanagan Valley. Students will create visual biographies of the victims, to be given to the Kelowna Women's Resource Centre (KWRC).

Beginning this month, students are collecting information from public sources -- such as newspapers, archives and websites -- to build the framed pieces.

"The project fits in beautifully with the course I am teaching," says Ilya Parkins, Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of Gender and Women's Studies. "It's so important for students to connect this large-scale issue to their community and their lives.

"It will put a face to the issue and show how violence cuts across the spectrum," she says. "These stories are going to be different from one another. Students will see that violence against women doesn't affect just one demographic."
Parkins is also asking her students to reflect on the gaps in information.

"Some of the students could find little or no information about the woman they've been assigned, and I want them to think about what that might mean."

Part of the UBC Okanagan Learning Exchange program, the project is intended to help honour and preserve the memory of local women who died because of violence and ensure they never become invisible in the struggle to end violence against women, says Micki Smith, coordinator of the Kelowna Women's Resource Centre.

"Since 1991, on December 6 we have been dedicating roses in memory of local women, as well as the 14 women in Montreal who were murdered during what is known as the Montreal Massacre," says Smith, adding that the annual remembrance strengthens the women's centre's resolve to create safe communities for women and their children.

"The names of murdered women must never be forgotten as their lives were meaningful and society as a whole has suffered the loss of their contribution and potential. These pieces will help to reinforce the community's connection with the victims."

The list of women murdered in the Okanagan is much longer than the 18 to 20 women being profiled by the students, notes Parkins. "But they were chosen by the KWRC because of the likelihood of finding at least some sort of public information about them."

"The women's centre has wanted to do this project for a long time, but just hasn't had the time or resources," says Lori Field, program coordinator of the Learning Exchange. "The idea came directly from a conversation with Micki. It is a great fit for the Learning Exchange, as it provides a two-way learning opportunity for our students, enabling them to work on something very meaningful to our community that at the same time enhances what they are studying in this class."

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