Getting the message out about violence to women – and its survivors

Shield of Athena launches new ‘For the Love of Women’ campaign’

With spring finally arriving in Laval and Montreal and the Covid pandemic hopefully behind us, the time seemed right last week for Shield of Athena to launch a new campaign to build even greater awareness of domestic violence, as well as the trauma it has caused many families over the past two years.

Shield of Athena executive-director Melpa Kamateros (standing) is seen here with Chris Ann Nakis, president of the board of directors. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

‘For the Love of Women’

Shield of Athena’s new ‘For the Love of Women’ campaign was launched last week at the Casa d’Italia community centre in east-central Montreal, with thirty guests attending a few days after International Women’s Day.

They included Laval city councillor Sandra El-Helou (who is responsible for status of women dossiers on Laval’s executive-committee), Montreal city councillor for Park Extension Mary Deros, and Montreal city councillor from NDG Despina Sourias (responsible for the Status of Women on Montreal’s executive-committee). Shield of Athena has offices and offers services in Laval and Montreal.

Getting the message out

“As we all know during Covid, we had a difficult time getting information across to women who could access the services and know the laws,” said Chris Ann Nakis, president of Shield of Athena’s board of directors. “This is our contribution to promoting more knowledge on the very important issue of violence against women.”

Melpa Kamateros, the organization’s executive-director, said the concept arose from the realization they could combine an earlier Shield of Athena book project, Recipes and Stories from Athena’s Kitchen, dealing with the turmoil experienced by actual survivors of violence, and joining it to another medium with important messages and information on the resources available to victims.

Clientele getting younger

Kamateros said staff at Shield of Athena’s shelters are seeing ever-younger women lately. She noted that on a list of women who died as a result of conjugal violence in recent years, 60 per cent were between the ages of 18 and 40. “Which means that society hasn’t changed its perception of conjugal violence or violence against women,” said Kamateros.

Laval city councillor Sandra El-Helou, who is responsible for status of women dossiers on Laval’s executive-committee, said she found Shield of Athena’s efforts “profoundly touching.” (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

“I find all your efforts profoundly touching,” said El-Helou. “As the person responsible for women’s issues with the City of Laval, I carry this dossier like a standard every day so that as women we may all have solidarity towards the constant improvement of conditions for women.” She noted that in recent years the City of Laval has taken a lead in promoting the well-being of women in workplace settings, as well as throughout the community.

Has ‘seen the sad killings’

“Thank you for helping constantly to improve the quality of life of these women,” said Deros, while noting that she has followed Shield of Athena’s progress over the 23 years she has sat on Montreal city council. “I have seen the results. I have also seen the sad killings, the lack of human appreciation of a partner. But worse, I know of two cases where the husband killed the woman.”

In all, 24 new videos created by Shield of Athena are being made available in French and English and will be distributed for viewing over different broadcast and web-based media. The project was funded by the Quebec Ministry of Justice, with the financial participation of the federal Ministry of Justice.

Recipes joined with messages

The videos use a different and original format to raise awareness of the cause, through recipes inspired by women who have stayed in the organization’s shelter. They have shared their recipes and stories in a special cookbook entitled ‘Recipes and Stories from Athena’s Kitchen.’

This is our contribution to promoting more knowledge on the very important issue of violence against women

Shield of Athena believes the women’s strength and resilience will serve to encourage many other victims to seek help. The recipes have been combined with 12 messages to convey valuable information to victims and their relatives in an effective and more attractive way.

From the left, Shield of Athena executive-director Melpa Kamateros, Montreal city councillor responsible for women’s issues Despina Sourias, Montreal city councillor for Park Extension Mary Deros, Shield of Athena president Chris Ann Nakis, supporter Pearl Eliadis, board member Litsa Pelonis, and Laval city councillor Sandra El-Helou. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

The message includes legal information, showing women the help resources that are available, while providing some statistics on domestic violence. The organization hopes to raise awareness on conjugal violence in this time of strife, when people find it difficult to access information and often have to remain confined.

Broadcast on TV and other media

Both of these factors can increase the complexity of leaving a conjugal violence situation, and place more women at risk and increase the occurrence of femicide worldwide. The videos will be broadcast by Shield of Athena’s media partner, ICI television, as well as other media in English and French, and later in ten other languages on various media and websites.

Shield of Athena says the concerted action will allow them to reach thousands of Quebecers and help vulnerable victims. The organization has taken the initial step of launching the program in French and English on a YouTube channel. The rest of the vignettes are being released in stages until May 12. The release dates were not chosen at random, as they all have an important meaning for women.