PORT HAWKESBURY: On the week of International Women’s Day, facilitators at the Strait Area Women’s Place (SAWP) were busy raising awareness of the services they provide to women in the region.
On Tuesday, women’s services facilitator Mary Elizabeth Cameron and women’s support worker Jessica Simms-Barss attended the Town of Port Hawkesbury’s regular monthly council meeting to provide an update on programs offered at SAWP.
“SAWP opened under the umbrella of Leeside Society in 2011 as a way to meet the extended needs of clients needing the shelter, and as a way to expand and provide services to women and girls who are not associated with Leeside,” said Cameron.
Since 2011, SAWP’s services have been accessed by over 800 women in the Strait area.
The centre offers a variety of free and confidential programming. SAWP partners with a nurse practitioner and clinical therapist to provide services such as a women’s health clinic and support for those experiencing anxiety, trauma, sexual violence and grief.
“The need for grief support in this community is huge. Because of the wait list with mental health, people are waiting for up to six months,” said Cameron. “These are some of the areas where we’re able to help women fill in those gaps.”
SAWP also offers advocacy and support with legal issues and housing. They host a variety of educational workshops on topics including budgeting and healthy eating. Cameron says that above all, SAWP is a place for women to connect with other women.
“Some of our programs are educational and some are social programs, but even the social programs are geared towards reducing social isolation, depression, and those things that so many women and their families and communities are affected by,” said Cameron.
On March 8, SAWP hosted its annual celebration of International Women’s Day, an event they have hosted each year since the centre first opened. Approximately 20 women came together to share conversation and activities including a presentation honouring female inventors.
Cameron says all of the programming comes at a cost. The two facilitators plan and implement all of SAWP’s activities with a core funding budget of $70,000. Cameron says other women’s centres in the province receive $190,000. The Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women has submitted a letter on the centre’s behalf to the government to advocate for equal funding with similar facilities in the province. Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said during last week’s council meeting that the town would also consider drafting a letter of support for SAWP.
“Eventually, Leeside’s fundraising is going to run out, and realistically, I can’t do all this myself,” said Cameron.
Cameron invited anyone wishing to learn more about SAWP to visit their Facebook page or stop by their centre at 609 Church Street.