In 2001, Frank Baird and a small group of men took a walk around their local park in high heels. Why? To shed light on and protest violence against women. Since then, “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” has become a world-wide movement, with tens of thousands of participants raising millions of dollars every year for local rape crisis centres, domestic violence shelters and other sexualized violence education programs. To learn more about the march, Look Local spoke with Kelly Letourneau, the co-ordinator for Barrie’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.
What makes Walk a Mile in Her Shoes different from other marches?
KELLY LETOURNEAU: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is a symbolic gesture of men marching in women’s footwear to raise awareness about the issue of violence against women. The walk gives men the opportunity to publically take a stand on this important issue and demonstrate that violence against women and children is not just a woman’s issue; it affects everyone and we need the help of the entire community. This is not a ‘men only’ event, however. Women, children, and families are all welcome to join in on the fun.
Why is it important to have men march for this cause? And why the shoes?
We need allies. We need men to stand up, partner with us, and make a public statement that they will stand with us in our efforts to end the cycle of violence.
A Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event is abundant with opportunities to get people talking. While the red pumps are not mandatory, the shoes help start the conversations. For preventive education, it helps men better understand and appreciate women’s experiences, thus changing perspectives, helping improve gender relationships, and decreasing the potential for violence. For healing, it informs the community that services are available for recovery.
Why is it so important to support our local Women and Children’s Shelters?
Violence against women affects women from all segments of society. However, it is exacerbated by poverty, limited access to resources, lack of affordable housing or child-care options, language and mobility restrictions, and immigration challenges.
Supporting the shelter helps women and children who are living right in your community. The shelter is only 75% government-funded, so we need to fundraise for the remaining 25%. Annually, that means we have to raise $350,000 each year just to keep the lights on. Every woman (and her children, if she has them) is offered emergency shelter, food, clean clothes, and resources to help with job and housing searches. We also offer court support if needed and counselling.
How can the public support the event?
Get involved by registering a team to walk! The goal for this year’s Walk a Mile is $50,000, so we need as much community support as we can get. Get your hockey team, lacrosse team, reading club, or family and friends to raise some money and walk with us. And when you do register, tell everyone you know about the walk. Post it on your social media channels and invite everyone to participate.
This year, the Barrie Walk a Mile in Her Shoes will take place on Saturday, September 15 from 11:00am to 1:00pm in Heritage Park. For more information, or to become an event sponsor, contact Kelly Letourneau via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Until then, start polishing those pumps!
by Emily Bednarz