Healing Gaia

Support Post-Secondary Education for Indigenous Women

The goal of Moc Walk is to raise $10,000 to establish an education fund, with awards distributed based on financial need.

By Doreen Nicoll
Published November 04, 2015

In a recent MacLean's article, A Real Nation Would Not Let This Happen, Scott Gilmore startled readers by revealing the unfathomable truths that Aboriginal communities face every day. Most Canadians are unaware that during any given 60 days of the calendar year:

Canada's human rights offences are very grave indeed and that's before mentioning the 1,181 murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.

With the exception of our murdered and missing Indigenous sisters, none of these issues was discussed during the recent federal election. That needs to change. These issues need to be raised with the new Liberal government and a partnership formed to find answers and implement remedies.

Since that won't be happening anytime soon, I'd like to invite women and men from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area to join in a grassroots event that will make a difference in the lives of young Indigenous women attending McMaster University and Mohawk College.

In June, I wrote that Honouring the Circle Transitional Housing in Hamilton, Ontario was forced to close its doors because $200,000 in core federal funding was cut.

The shelter provided short-term, second-stage housing for up to 15 women and their children. These women were at risk of homelessness, violence, poverty, or abuse. While at the shelter, women and children could participate in programs that moved them beyond crisis to a place of healing and wellness that created true change in these families.

On October 1, Honouring the Circle reopened its doors! However, the shelter is still without core funding, relying instead on limited project-based funding. This leaves the shelter in a very precarious financial position. At issue is core funding to cover a full-time staff person to be on site during the week. This would allow the shelter to once again house women and their children.

At a time when young Indigenous women are enrolling in college and university programs in greater numbers than ever before, the Healing Centre would like to extend programs, services and support to these women to help them stay in school. But that takes money.

On Sunday, November 8, McMaster students and Hamilton community members will gather at Gage Park in Hamilton as part of Moc Walk, a charity walk-a-thon. The money raised will fund an award to support Indigenous women living in the City of Hamilton who are pursuing post-secondary education.

In its inaugural year, Moc Walk is an awareness and support fundraiser organized by the McMaster University Cooperative of Indigenous Studies Students & Alumni (CISSA) and the Hamilton Native Women's Centre (NWC). The goal is to eliminate barriers Indigenous women may face when they decide to invest in themselves through education and invest in their communities by strengthening their roles as cultural, social and community leaders.

Barriers may include the high cost of tuition, along with the additional costs of supplies, books, housing and food, and the occasional trip home. Many of these young women have travelled great distances from rural communities and may not know anyone or may not feel safe in such a large urban setting.

Personal struggles including generational abuses and witnessing violence impact their ability to cope with, and adapt to, change.

These women may struggle to find connection with their culture. Some may be single parents which places greater demands on their time and resources. Honouring the Circle provides a safe haven, culturally appropriate programs and services, and helps women build relationships so that they feel part of the local Aboriginal community.

The goal of Moc Walk is to raise $10,000 to establish an education fund. Awards will be distributed based on financial need. Awards applications available in the New Year will cover either full-time or part-time studies.

The five awards will include: two $1,000 awards for a McMaster University and a Mohawk College student; one $500 award for an Indigenous woman pursuing trades certification; and three $500 awards for clients of the Hamilton Native Women's Centre pursuing post-secondary education. The remainder of the funds will be invested and added to by annual Moc Walks to ensure sustainability.

Indigenous and non-indigenous community members are all welcome to walk and collect donations. Register online or just show up Sunday at Gage Park from 1:30 pm. to 4 pm. Local businesses can donate directly to the fund or become a sponsor of the event.

Donations will be accepted:

The Hamilton Native Women's Centre is a registered Canadian charity and will provide tax receipts for donations over $20.

For more information send enquires to: cissaatmac@gmail.com.

Doreen Nicoll is a feminist and a member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.


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