Spotlight: Northern Women’s Centre at UNBC
By Tyson Kelsall, Culture Editor
The Northern Women’s Centre at the University of Northern BC is the only place of its kind in Prince George. The executive director of the Northern Women’s Centre, Sarah Boyd-Noel, says that the most important thing that centre can do is be there for women in their time of need. Access to their services is not limited to the student body; any woman is welcome to come into the Women’s Centre.
Boyd-Noel defines the role of the organization as a “Gatekeeper.” The role played by the center is multi-dimensional as the issues faced by the women who seek their services greatly vary in nature. The Women’s Centre acts primarily as a resource center and a safe place. It often helps with referrals, as well as providing important information on a variety of topics including addiction, violence, mental health, and gender issues. All of the volunteers at the Women’s Centre also receive training in suicide and crisis intervention, thereby enhancing and diversifying the strength of a safe atmosphere for women in need. Additionally, the Women’s Centre plays the role of advocate for many women; Boyd-Noel gave an example of a woman who came into the center because her gas had been cut off. Boyd-Noel advocated on her behalf and spoke with Fortis BC to help her get it running again. They also host a wide array events year round. The “No Means No” and “Yes Means Yes” campaign regarding sexual consent was held very successfully this past year on campus. Another on-campus event is their involvement with Respect Week. This year, on 27 February, the Centre will host an interactive self-assessment for women in relationships. In conjunction, a counsellor will be readily available for women who may come to the realization they are in an unhealthy relationship after completing the assessment. Off-campus, the Women’s Centre acts as a connector to the community, helping and coordinating events such as Take Back the Night, Jezebel’s Jam and the Eco-Fashion Show.
Additionally, according to Boyd-Noel, the Northern Undergraduate Services Society’s Women’s Representative put together a survey that concluded there were still many cases of abuses towards woman that were/are relatively hidden or unknown at UNBC. The results are relatively consistent with the number of incidences that occurred in 1995; the year that the Women’s Centre first opened its’ doors. In other words, she does not believe enough has changed, and the Women’s Centre still plays a crucial role in meeting the needs of women at UNBC and in the community at large.
Currently and ongoing, the Women’s Centre has an art program, featuring Si Transken and other artists’ work. At the moment, 50% of sales goes towards the Women’s Centre and the other half towards Transken’s community-based art therapy program. Boyd-Noel says the program has helped raise many funds for their program and she is very thankful for all of the artists’ and communities’ support.