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Bridges for Women marks 34 years helping women reclaim their lives

As it looks forward to celebrating its 12th annual International Women’s Day on March 8, the Bridges for Women Society can look back on 34 years of helping women affected by trauma, violence or abuse reclaim their lives.
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Patricia Rawson is executive director for Bridges for Women, an organization for women affected by violence, trauma and abuse. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

As it looks forward to celebrating its 12th annual International Women’s Day on March 8, the Bridges for Women Society can look back on 34 years of helping women affected by trauma, violence or abuse reclaim their lives.

Executive director Patricia Rawson says while violence against women is still prevalent and a systemic issue, the society is also seeing greater resiliency in its clients. “Our mission has been to help women reclaim their lives through healing, education and employment programs in addition to one-on-one counselling support.”

In 2021, Bridges offered more than 1,200 counselling sessions to 320 individuals. Close to 90 per cent of the participants of its programs found work or returned to school three months after they graduated.

Rawson said that time has affirmed the vision of the five founding members of the society — who are referred to as the “five mothers” — who saw a need for an organization that would help women affected by trauma.

“Our vision has not changed — it has evolved,” said Rawson, adding the COVID-19 pandemic has increased social isolation and instances of violence against women. “It is more important than ever to address women’s empowerment.”

The charity has collaborated with other organizations in advocating for women through education and public speaking.

It provides counselling services as well as employment, mentorship and Indigenous programs for its clients.

The culturally sensitive Indigenous program has been so successful that the society is now working to create a blueprint so tit can be replicated across the country.

Bridges plans to celebrate International Women’s Day with a fundraising event featuring keynote speakers who will share insights about women’s empowerment, social responsibility and their work as leaders through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keynote speakers include Aman Grewal, president of the B.C. Nurses Union, Winona Waldron, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association and Niki Sharma, Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development and Non-Profits.

Tickets are by donation. The celebration takes place from noon to 1:15 p.m. March 8 online via Zoom. A silent auction runs now until March 8.

For more information, or for tickets, go to bridgesforwomen.ca.

parrais@timescolonist.com