|Research Report for "Literacy for Women on the Streets"||Capilano College – November 2003|
The research project provided everyone with a broader view of what makes learning safe for street-involved women. Without their candid feedback, we would not know how much kindness, respect, encouragement and a non-judgmental attitude meant to women who have no other place to learn.
The WISH Learning Centre opened both a physical and a mental space for women in the sex-trade in the Downtown Eastside. While organizations have tried to provide food and health services to women, they have not fed their minds or their spirits. The Learning Centre provided a space for women to exhale, to experiment with their learning and to use literacy as a process for healing, self-reflection and harm reduction. By following and supporting the agenda women set for themselves at WISH, the Learning Centre was able to reinforce women's forays into leadership and collective empowerment.
Clearly, the voices of sex-trade workers are essential for initiating solutions to violence, discrimination and alternative opportunities. Women have proven that they have both the capacity and the vision to participate in the debate. In many communities across Canada, people are experiencing gashes in the social safety net. Growing support for welfare reform and a shrinking role for governments in all aspects of community life have created a new population of poor, homeless and disenfranchised Canadians. The women at the WISH Learning Centre remind us that this growing population of marginalized citizens has both literacy needs and leadership capacity.
Dee Dee Martin's poem encourages us to use "The Courage to Find Wings". Her words inspire to find the courage and resources to meet the needs of literacy learners in shelters, crisis centres, food banks and drop-ins across the country. We hope that the information shared in this research project provides insight and reassurance that such projects are both possible and transforming.
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