The courage of women lifts us all

Barbara Wood, CoDev Executive Director, shares the second of a 3-part report on Berenice Celeyta’s (NOMADESC) 2011 visit to Canada.

Amidst roses, pakoras and historic photos of working women, Berenice came on stage at the Vancouver and District Labour Council International Women’s Day dinner on March 3rd, to share with all those gathered the stories of three courageous Colombian women from years past. The three fought against injustice and were killed as a result. They inspired others to take up the struggle and today they live on in people such as Berenice Celeyta, CoDev’s partner from the human rights organization, NOMADESC, in south west Colombia.

As Berenice speaks one can hear the strength of these Colombian women flowing through her and out to the IWD gathering. It is as potent a message as one can offer – we are here because of the conviction and strength of our foremothers to work for a better world and we will continue for our children and for the women yet to come.

A message such as this takes on a significant depth of meaning when one knows the story of the messenger. Berenice, like her foremothers, stands up daily against injustice and to defend the rights of all peoples, especially those most vulnerable. For this, she is persecuted and threatened. Yet at the end of the night, Berenice dances bhangra with everyone and laughs in pure enjoyment.

In Vancouver Berenice also met with Mark Hancock, Secretary Treasurer of CUPE BC; Darryl Walker, President of the BC Government and Service Employees Union; Kay Sinclair, Regional (BC) Executive Vice President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada; and with Jim Sinclair and the Executive Council of the BC Federation of Labour.

Berenice left BC on Monday leaving people inspired and even more committed to solidarity. Onwards she traveled to Regina to speak to the CUPE Saskatchewan convention where the warmth of the people (and a union jacket) will keep her going through the sub-zero temperatures.

Be sure to read the first part of this series.

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