Valerie St. John and Heather Forbes hold up paintings by Sheryl Fisher that were auctioned off at the Bridges for Women Society’s 10th Annual International Women’s Day luncheon. (Black Press Media file photo)

Valerie St. John and Heather Forbes hold up paintings by Sheryl Fisher that were auctioned off at the Bridges for Women Society’s 10th Annual International Women’s Day luncheon. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria event raising funds to support women facing violence, trauma

Bridges for Women Society will host its 11th annual International Women’s Day event online this year

A Victoria agency is once again building support for women who have experienced violence and trauma, including ones facing increased hardships brought on by the pandemic.

Bridges for Women Society will host its 11th annual International Women’s Day fundraiser online this year. The March 8 event will run from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., feature two women leaders as keynote speakers and aim to bolster solidarity for women’s empowerment.

“This year, it’s more important than ever to recognize women’s leadership,” said Patricia Rawson, the society’s executive director, in a release.

READ: Victoria non-profit celebrates women at annual International Women’s Day luncheon

She said women across the community are “drawing on their strengths and facing today’s challenges with determination.”

“It’s no surprise that women are at the forefront of the response to the public health, social and economic response to the pandemic,” Rawson said. “It is time to celebrate these inspiring women.”

Attendees can register for the event by making a donation on the fundraiser’s eventbrite page.

All the proceeds will go towards Bridges for Women Society’s healing, education and employment programs for women impacted by violence and trauma. The agency says the COVID-19 pandemic has made demand for those programs higher than ever before.

“We know that the economic and employment impacts of the pandemic have disproportionately hurt women,” according to the society’s release. “Heartbreakingly, the isolation and anxiety associated with social distancing measures have also led to increased domestic violence and greater challenges seeking safety and accessing resources.”

READ: Broader gender focus needed for COVID-19 response, advocates say

The agency said it’s responded to the pandemic’s added strains by moving all of its programs online, securing technology and devices for clients and conducting socially distant counselling and crises services.

“We are running a full complement of programs and are continually finding new and creative ways to meet the needs of our community,” the release said.

The March 8 fundraiser will include a discussion related to women in leadership, with keynote speakers Dr. Daniele Behn Smith, B.C.’s deputy health officer for Indigenous health, and Kathryn Calder, the City of Victoria’s artist-in-residence. It will also have a silent auction and attendees will receive a gift bag.

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