No one understands a woman like another woman

Anne-Marie welcomes our photographer to The Redwood where some of the agency’s clients have gathered. One of the core values of the organization, respect, is displayed on the door, reminding the women not only what they deserve from others but what they owe themselves.

Three years ago, I got to be a mentor to a young woman taking part in United Way’s CITY Leaders program. She was ambitious, hard working, and just starting to build her career in social services. She called me the other day to tell me about her new job at a community agency and I was so excited to hear about her work and the progress she’s made.

There are so many women, like my young friend, leading the way in our sector. Many of them run our member agencies. All serve as great role models, helping people along their career paths. And there’s something particularly powerful about women helping other women.

I think that’s why agencies like The Redwood — and women like Anne- Marie—are so important. Someone recently said to me “no one understands a woman like another woman.” I believe that’s true.

Maybe that’s why, like Anne-Marie, I’m so inspired by the many strong women who share their personal stories of survival. Women who have experienced violence, trauma, addiction and yet continue to live their lives and thrive — even finding the strength to nurture and educate others.

In my line of work, I get to talk to many women who are struggling with or have overcome serious challenges. And every time, their stories affect and motivate me in new ways.

Anne-Marie’s call to action is an important one. Yes, women have fought and won important battles for equality, safety and respect. But we have more to do. We have to build on those successes.

We need to do this because when I read the papers, I still see statistics, images and stories that point to deep-rooted social challenges. It’s disconcerting that so many of the women who find themselves in Toronto shelters are low-income and racialized.

But clients like Helena, who created the beautiful drawing that Anne-Marie shared in her post, give me hope. But so do agencies like The Redwood.  Like many other community organizations, they go beyond offering a safe haven. They work to help their clients overcome big hurdles by offering employment support, counselling, settlement services, a network of friends and help finding a new home. They’re giving women the tools they need to build better and healthier lives.

Anne-Marie imagines a Toronto where all women and children have the promise of fulfilling their dreams.  I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate her work —and the work of her peers — towards achieving this vision. With so many strong women working to make our city a place where everyone is safe, confident and respected, I think Anne-Marie’s Toronto is possible.

Leave me a comment and tell me about the strong women in your life.

2 thoughts on “No one understands a woman like another woman

  1. Susan, thank you so much for your leadership, support and encouragement. I feel immense gratitude that I have always had strong ‘sisters’ in my life, beginning with my mother who often defied convention and in her 90’s now describes herself as a feminist – ever an inspiration!

    I met a young woman on screen yesterday in the documentary Young Lakota. Sunny Clifford, at the age of 20, joined the fight for reproductive justice in her traditional territory in North Dakota. She wanted to make a difference in her life and the lives of women in her community and stepped up against a lot of odds. She wanted all women to have choices and saw that she could play a role in helping make that happen. I don’t know Sunny, but her courage and deep sense of community reminded me of the saying that if one of us is not free, none of us are free.

  2. My mother! Raised three teenagers on her own, while working full time, and coming to every one of my hockey games, cheering the loudest. Now she is retired, a grandmother, and we all do anything we can to show her how much it meant to us.

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