My Journey

Tamarack Verrall
Posted September 25, 2015 from Canada

Born in Canada, my childhood was largely in Montreal where I now have returned. In between, I have lived in and visited many other parts of Canada, traveled to many parts of the world, and lived in the woods doing organic farming and gathering my energy to continue what is most important to me: working to end violence against women.

I am the second child of six, the one girl. My parents held equal expectations and encouragement for us all, which I appreciated early on as I realized that this was not so in the larger world. I ran away from strangers in the park, and strangers who pulled up in cars beside me on the road, to expose themselves. I resented having to wear a shirt in the summer, and to not be allowed to wander in the outlying meadows with my girlfriends. I fought to be equally considered with men for work I could do better than them. I learned early to walk home at night with my keys between my fingers like a weapon, just in case. I am fortunate to have been able to fight off more than one attempted rape. I knew as a young woman that I did not want to be married, despite proposals by gentle men. I was aware of the luxury of that choice, even though it seemed such a simple and basic human right. My deepest relationships have been with women, intellectual, social, political, and magically sometimes, romantic.

In 1969, a few of us started one of the first women’s centres in Montreal. It grew rapidly. There were no battered women’s shelters, no rape crisis shelters. We began to speak out about the numbers of women leaving violent relationships, being refused work, facing countless roadblocks to safety, and of the number of women being raped and killed. We began to find each other across the country, and found ways to travel and meet, to set up safe houses and centres where women could find support. The press media was largely nasty, especially in the '80’s when we were speaking out about the amount of incest being forced on children. We were being aggressively discredited as being “anti men” for saying such awful things. There was a failed attempt to fire me from what then was national work creating a safe road back into the community, for women who were in prison. I heard their stories, too. I spoke often publicly, and opened a healing centre for women, determined that as help for women was becoming more formalized and publicly accepted, that safe, free community assistance still needed to be offered, in the volunteer style that had always been offered through those first women’s centres. I have crossed Canada this past summer, meeting women working in what now is such a strong interconnection of women’s centres, rape crisis centres, transition houses. The pain is in the reality that this many years later, we need them more than ever. Three women were murdered just yesterday, not far from where I live.

I had long known that violence against girls and women existed everywhere, and I longed to be able to find my sisters globally. I travelled in India in 1979, looking, having heard of women gathering there, but I couldn’t find these sisters. Now there is WorldPulse. Here we are meeting as fast as we have time to be on this site. I race back to my computer whenever I can. I celebrate each new sister I meet. I celebrate my deepening relationships with many of you. I celebrate the stories of all of the meetings, the strategizing, the groups forming, the support from brothers, the emergence of all this. For me, this journey is getting long. I expected there to be no more violence against women - any women - a long time ago. Now I believe that we are strong enough together to make this happen.

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Omoy k Williams
Sep 25, 2015
Sep 25, 2015

You would think your story was fictional, one penned  as a script , but it isn't. I could visualise gripping those keys ready to fight lol. Your story is so very inspirational thank you so much for sharing.

Tamarack Verrall
Sep 27, 2015
Sep 27, 2015

Dear Omoy,

Thanks for writing back to my story, I loved your response. It's always somewhat unnerving to send off something new, especially personal. I smiled that you could picture the keys between the fingers. My friends and I all did that. I still do it. Even though it's a tiny chance of being effective, we felt prepared. I love that we are now in such strong company of each other, that we are creating a world in which girls and women are safe.

With love in sisterhood,

Tam

Ukhengching Marma
Sep 25, 2015
Sep 25, 2015

Hello Tam,

You are an inspirition to me, to my journey.I can understand Violence against Women is a common issue in many parts of this world. I also suffer from constant horror and try to be safe from the perpetrators . I find similar both your and in my parents becasue they want to give us the taste of equality and i guess which have make us empowered from the inner sight and to fight against all evils.We are thankful to Worldpulse that has provided us the golden opportunity to support each other, to support humnanity.

Love and respect

Ukheng

Tamarack Verrall
Sep 27, 2015
Sep 27, 2015

Dear Ukheng, It warms my heart that this inspires you. Yes, this pervasive and brutal violence against women is still a common issue, different methods, different degrees, different numbers, but until every woman and girl is safe and free, we are not finished. We have many safe houses here now, but women are still isolated and dying behind closed doors and in public places. Having parents who encouraged us gave us both a strong beginning toward our current journeys. I am glad that you had that, too. And yes, now we have WorldPulse and each other, and the opportunity to all support each other. Dream come true. Thank you for writing back.

With ongoing love, Tam

Tan Ching
Sep 26, 2015
Sep 26, 2015

You are having such a full life. Envy you ...the country in you are in also provides better opportunities for you to expand yourself. Thanks for sharing your story.

Tamarack Verrall
Sep 27, 2015
Sep 27, 2015

Dear Ching,

Thank you for responding to my journey. It is true, I am lucky to have been born here, in a country with opportunities, and a supportive family. Not all people here are as lucky, there are many on the street or living without enough food but we do live in a country that is held responsible to some degree to its citizens. 3/4 of the wealth of the world goes offshore, untaxed. That is immoral, and I am committed to addressing the inequality of this current world economy. Dear sister, I wish the same freedom that I have experienced for everyone on this planet.

With love,

Tam

Elvire
Sep 26, 2015
Sep 26, 2015

Dear Tam,

It is hard to imagine gender-based violence in Canada, but are we not all humans?

Thanks for sharing and expanding my limits.

I remember commenting with one of my former bosses: “sometimes I feel like you would like me to be a man”. What was supposed to be a casual comment led to apologies, then a special day for women, then the celebration of the women’s day, then, then, then … The other ladies at the workplace were glad with the changes, but I kept wondering for sometimes why those changes required that statement from me. I remember refraining from saying more than straight answers to official points from that time, until I understood that those prompters are needed, if we would like people to stop and reflect on some of their decisions, actions, words.

Thanks for being there for those women. Technology, modernism, globalization, have not made violence a smaller problem. New and sophisticated ways have appeared and we need to stand by one another more than before.

Cheers!

Tamarack Verrall
Sep 27, 2015
Sep 27, 2015

Dear Elvire,

Yes, it is shocking how much violence against women still exists here in Canada, women being violated behind closed doors, and in public space. It is a mystery to me how this can be happening everywhere, and for so long in time. I do believe that we who are able to stand up to it are here to change this, forever.

What an interesting story about your interaction with that boss. How braving one comment can create such change. We can be surprised and a little taken aback to realize what one statement can bring. I am so glad to read that you have embraced that experience to become even more outspoken. I love the subtle but powerful role you describe as "prompters". I am so grateful that we all have a way to keep meeting here. You are so right, new ways to control us through violence are appearing. I have never been as hopeful as I am today, however, because of all my global sisters.

With love, 

Tam

Urmila Chanam
Sep 26, 2015
Sep 26, 2015

Dear sister Tam,

Thank you so much for writing this wonderful story which opens up the possibility in me and I am sure in other women and girls reading it,to think about the multiple instances where we were violated physically, emotionally or mentally. It takes so much courage to talk about it or open a conversation on it! I am inspired by your courage and to learn that you have survived attempted rape. Look at you- how you have used that experience to make a change!

About 5 years ago, one night, after getting back from work on a lonely street I found myself in a very vulnerable situation and faced hostility and confrontation with an autorickshaw driver, on whose auto I was travelling home. I have not been able to talk about it since the time I got home. In my mind, 'it never happened.' Now when I look back I wonder if this denial is because we, women, do not want to face our issues upfront, chase justice and address our issues internally. Is this fear of subjugation?

I am encouraged to go back and stand in the same spot once again and approach that incident the way you have- in doing something to curb violence against women. Thank you sister Tam. I am confident your journey will not be as long as you worry and you will find respite soon.

In solidarity,

Urmila Chanam,

Breaking the Silence

Tamarack Verrall
Sep 27, 2015
Sep 27, 2015

My dear sister Urmila,

I am so glad that reading of these molestations and attempted rapes has emboldened you in some way, bold woman that you already are! What you describe going through, saddens and enrages me, and deepens my determination all the more. It does take courage to talk about, I even hesitated to write this in my journey, but all of these responses by sisters here remind me that we are stronger the more we voice the reality of what is taking place. That you had tucked this memory away as if it had never happened is, I believe, what we do to carry on. We can think about it again when we know we are not alone, and when we have the energy to think about it. Thinking about it, we often feel it all over again, and that takes strength. We are so judged to say these things, accused of making them up, of making much out of nothing, of being negative, of being prejudiced by saying anything against even one man. Yes, I think it is fear of subjugation, of retaliation to control the news by squashing the messenger. With our combined voices, this is becoming impossible now! I am very moved that my journey described here has in some way emboldened you further. I am happy for my long journey. Just impatient. 

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do" made me laugh out loud. So true. 

Ongoing love,

Tam

coolasas
Sep 28, 2015
Sep 28, 2015

Hi Tam, 

I celebrate your courage to stand up for women in the times when we are not even acknowledge even as second rate citizen. Times has evolved but your stories then and the stories now are still the same in many parts of the world. 

I remember having a dring with a male colleague and we were talking about so many things in our line of work when he said "i've seen a lot of development in women's rights and empowerment" and followed by "at least in our countries" meaning developed coutnries (him being from France) but not in the countries where we work, the least developed ones. Where women are even regarded as workhorse, to do everything and to provide for their families while the men are either out somewhere or just plain lazy. I don't generalize but its the reality where I used to roam around at least. 

We have long way to go but at least here at WP we have started something, the seed of change is growing and many are already reaping the fruits from its young tree. We need more women like you ... more supporters and more women ready to share their stories. 

Keep the love! 

Coolasas

Tamarack Verrall
Sep 30, 2015
Sep 30, 2015

Hi Coolasas,

Thank you for your kind words, I am so very glad to be connected with you through this amazing WorldPulse. I love your image of its having grown from seed to young tree already bearing fruits that we are all able to enjoy. So true! I had to think of what bothered me so much about what that male colleague had to say to you. What is the point of his saying that he has seen women's rights without even saying that he has been glad for it, or he is committed to it, but no, just that he is aware that it has taken place in "his" country, not where you are. Callous and ignorant that true women's rights will only be completely celebrated when it is all of us. I continue to be so grateful for WorldPulse and want to say that so many of us in North America will not stop until every woman and girl everywhere is safe and free.

Sending love in sisterhood,

Tam 

rosemary_ntoipo
Oct 04, 2015
Oct 04, 2015

Dear Tam,

Thank you for this very inspirational story of your journey. I, surely saw you growing up through your story. This was a great journey. Thanks to your parents who treated you with equity. I love that. 

Am very impressed by your determination. You never gave up even when challenges arose especially when highligted negatively by the press media. This is quite encouraging. It tells me, us, everybody to keep working hard despite the challeges involved in our work until we get help for our girls and women in our communities and nations.

Congratulations, in creating a safe back for girls and women, opening a healing centre which I believe encouraged the interconnection of women centers and other shelters. 

I wish to connect with you again for advice on similar situations with regard to my work for girls. Looking forward to joining you soon on a platform to this effect (GBV).

Again thanks.

Warm regards,

Rosemary.

Oct 07, 2015
Oct 07, 2015
This comment has been removed by the commenter or a moderator.
Tamarack Verrall
Oct 07, 2015
Oct 07, 2015

Dear Rosemary,

Thank you so much for your encouraging words. With each year I become even more determined, and with my WorldPulse Sisters, I gain great hopefulness that we are creating these changes globally. I am aware of and inspired by the important work that you are doing, empowering girls and working toward freedom for girls and women in your country. I look forward to any ongoing information sharing and support that we are able to develop now that we are connected through this amazing system. 

Warmly,

Tam

nsahmala
Oct 05, 2015
Oct 05, 2015

Hello Tam!

This is more than just a great short story deserving to appear on a reputed journal; it strikes cords in all humans. I would dare say you started daring to say and stand for the truth of equality and mutual respect among all peoples even long before the present global outcry against violence meted out on women.

Your presence here at World Pulse constitutes first and foremost a resource on which younger human and women righst activists have to rely. Here you are inspiring both your younger and other sisters brought together by the magic of technologies.

I am very convinced that the opportunities offered by ICTs today, especially this platform, will help you to help us to end all this violence. Your achievents are numerous and I can feel your heart beating for more of them. And they are not far from you and us.

Kenneth Toah Nsah (pen name: Nsah Mala)

Cameroon

Tamarack Verrall
Oct 07, 2015
Oct 07, 2015

Hello Kenneth,

What kind and encouraging words you have sent, and how good to meet you here, and to know that you are working along with us sisters here, toward a world free of violence. I do feel that we are linking arms strongly through WorldPulse and that we have never been this strongly connected before. Thank you for your support, and for your generous words that young activists might be encouraged by my story.

Best wishes,

Tam

Hannah B
Oct 08, 2015
Oct 08, 2015

Tam,

Thank you so much for sharing your story!  I took away many important points. One is that it is cruicial for the younger generations to understand that there was a time before women's shelters and support services existed.  As someone who grew up taking forgranted that these exist, and then working in them myself, it is chilling to imagine the time you describe where there were not places women could go or phone numbers to call.

I also think that it is important to share your story so that the rest of the world understands that violence against women does not only affect their country or culture -- places like Canada and the U.S. also have very high rates of violence and many problems.  Maybe if we all keep talking and bringing opression and violence into the light, we will gain more power to end it.

I wish you well in your work and writing!  Thank you again for your bravery!

Best,

Hannah

Tamarack Verrall
Oct 24, 2015
Oct 24, 2015

Dear Hannah,

Thanks for your response, I was so glad to read that you found some of this history helpful. You found the two main reasons that I wrote. One, to show that there was a time here in Canada when there were no centres, and that we were able to press the government to find funding for what we correctly described as an emergency, still shamefully happening here and everywhere, and secondly to reinforce that this is truly a global state of emergency. I read in Worldpulse from so many sisters still using their homes and cell phones as emergency shelters and connection lines. Collectively I hope that we can press all governments to provide funding for all girls and women needing safe places. I believe that our voices are gaining such strength, at a level previously unheard of, and that we are on our way toward violence against women in all the forms it takes, everywhere, being stopped.

Happy to meet you here, Sister.

Tam

Carolyn Seaman
Oct 25, 2015
Oct 25, 2015

Hi Tam,

Wow! Your story has left me speechless. We have been connected for a while on Facebook and share and like each others posts from time to time. Yet, I had no idea you were such a great personality with such an inspiring story of your life.

I am inspired that you have maximized your freedom and privileges and still stood strong for women who have not had life as smooth as you have. This is truly why we are here - to live life to the fullest while looking out for our fellow sisters and brothers as well. We must continue to unite together until we can boast of a better world for our children unborn. We need a better world for humanity, particularly for women and girls who have suffered great marginalization and violence over the centuries. 

Nigeria has encountered alarming terrorists attacks in recent years and women and girls have increasingly been victims of the violence. I participated in the coordination of a remarkable girls safety workshop organised to train adolescent girl programming practitioners. The workshop was conducted by the Girl Effect University and Girl Hub Nigeria and participants were pooled from communities prone to the attacks. There was such great learning and sharing. We also had girls in the room who had innovative questions, ideas and challenges to share. The question, where are the girls safe produced some alarming responses from the girls themselves. And it almost sounded like nowhere was safe? Their homes? The religious institutions (Churches and Mosques)? The Police Station? The Schools?...... If anything, this reveals the increasing need to pay attention to the safety and security of women and girls.

So pleased to know you and learn about your incredible story. And so pleased to be a part of this fantastic community, World Pulse. I remain inspired and motivated to contribute to a better world for women and girls.

Warm regards,

Carolyn

Tamarack Verrall
Nov 02, 2015
Nov 02, 2015

Hi Carolyn,

It was heart warming to read your encouraging words. I too, have been aware of you and your work through FaceBook and here through this tremendous WorldPulse and very glad for the connection. I am so grateful for the chance to have our own dependable internal news system, and I have been able to learn so much from you and others here about all that is going on in Nigeria.

I so agree that we must stay in touch and create  the world that we envision, a world in which women and girls are free. I love your image of us being able to boast about it one day. I feel so strongly that we are well on the way, now that we are finding each other through WorldPulse. I wrote my story wanting it to be known that there is still much to be done here, and that I am far from being the only sister here who has been at this for awhile, and who intends to never stop. Everyone here who learns about all that is being done by sisters and allies globally, is tremendously encouraged.

Thanks so much for your comments, and for your connection,

Tam