Local men are being called on to strut their stuff.
The international campaign Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is making its way to Bonnyville for the first time. Aimed at raising awareness on domestic violence, the initiative encourages men to show solidarity by slipping into a pair of red high heels.
“It’s important to involve men in the issue of domestic violence. It shows that they understand and support those affected by gender violence and will do what is in their power to stop the cycle of violence and increase public awareness of this social issue that affects not just women, but families and our society in general,” said Candina Wosminity of the Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre’s (DMSCC) Bonnyville Community Support office.
The fundraiser is being hosted by the Bonnyville Community Support program on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m., during the Pontiacs’ game at the Centennial Centre. Men can register for the event, collect pledges, and that evening show their support by prancing around in the signature Walk a Mile in Her Shoes high heels.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes first started in 2001 in the United States, by a man by the name of Frank Baird. That year, it was a small group of men banding together to walk around a park. It has since grown to an international movement with men across the globe raising millions of dollars for their local rape centres, domestic violence shelters, and education and prevention programs. Every year, men across North America, and even in places such as Trinidad and Puerto Rico, take part.
“We can’t prevent or eradicate domestic violence against women without working with men and boys. We know domestic violence does work both ways, but having men stand up and say ‘this is not okay, we want to make a change as well and together we’re all going to make a difference’ is a great message to send out,” said Serina Parsons, DMSCC resource development coordinator.
In Bonnyville, the community support program is entering its second year providing resources and aid to those in domestic violence situations. The program was launched in March 2016 by the DMSCC as they felt there was a need for their service in town. In the first six months, the two community support workers opened 38 files. To date, they have helped over 53 clients through one-on-one supports and referrals, as well as holding group sessions for both men and women.
“We knew there was a need for this service in the Bonnyville area,” said DMSCC executive director Susan White. “Once the numbers started coming in, and the program was more established, the need became more evident.”
In addition to raising awareness of domestic violence, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes will also serve as a fundraiser and promotion tool for the newly formed program. The funds raised will go towards “continuing and expanding the Bonnyville Community Support Program.”
“Right now, they’re doing a lot of one-on-one support, but we also do a lot of programs like empowering women, a better way, and empowering teens in the community. To put on those programs every year costs money, so it will really ensure that we can continue,” Parsons explained.
Wosminity added that they’re goal is to bring the community together with this event to support the cause and the local program.
“This event brings an issue to light that is often hidden in a fun and engaging way. It is important for the issue of family violence to be brought out in the open, so that the community knows it’s okay to speak up and address this very serious issue.”
By partnering with the Pontiacs, they’re hoping to draw on the local Jr. A club’s fan base in order to reach as many people as possible. While they don’t have a fundraising goal, Parsons noted they bought 27 pairs of the official red high heels and they’re hoping to fill them all.
“We encourage men to get involved, to start the conversation about family violence and healthy relationships,” said Wosminity. “We want men to be able to role model, in a very real and open way to our sons and daughters, that we should all be treated with respect.”
While walking in high heels for the first time can be a daunting task, and not always comfortable, Wosminity said not to worry. The official Walk a Mile four-inch heels are made slightly wider and with comfort in mind so participants won’t be deterred.
“We plan on having coaches to help the men learn to walk in heels. The best trick is smaller steps, heel to toes.”
For more information on Bonnyville’s first Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, or to register, contact the community support office at 780-826-2656 or by email at email@example.com.