Circles of Support and Change

What We Do and Learn

Empowering Women and Communities to End Gender-Based Violence:
A Collaborative Approach

During the development of the proposal, groups of women gathered in each of the communities to talk about gender-based violence and identify what was needed in their communities to support survivors and prevent future violence. A few key challenges were identified. For example in Canso and area, there is a serious lack of resources, services, supports and information. In the three African Nova Scotian communities, these same gaps are compounded by systemic racism that has led to a lack of trust in external and more formal organizations. It was also felt that students travelling to the Strait Area Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College were lacking resources and supports on this issue in their own communities and would benefit from services on campus. As well there was a need to educate faculty on how to respond to incidents of gender-based violence.

Learning from Indigenous Approaches

Around the same time, the Mi’kmaw Community Engagement Toolkit was released after years of project work in the community of Paqtnkek. The Paqtnkek Health Centre and the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre & Sexual Assault Services Association received funding from Status of Women Canada, for a collaborative, two-year project between 2014 and 2016, to strengthen how we address sexual violence against Indigenous women. The project focused on both the response to sexual violence and the prevention of it, based in a culturally relevant, revitalizing, and safe approach. The proposal development team felt it would be important to learn if the ideas, suggestions and approaches could be helpful to African Nova Scotian and other rural and isolated communities.

Building Healthier Relationships and Communities through Circles of Support

The idea for this project was to create circles of support and change around women survivors of gender based violence to empower and enable them. Women would identify individual family members, friends, community members or service providers that would be willing to provide a “circle of support” around them them.

The circles would lead to increased knowledge about gender-based violence, survivors being connected to resources they need, healthier relationships, a sense of “Sisterhood” and feeling supported. As well the project was intended to improve the cultural responsiveness of service provider and community partners.

A Timeline of Our Work

Getting Started

It took about six months to recruit and hire the Community Facilitators and Project Coordinator. By the fall 2019, everyone was in place and the team began the process of re-connecting with the women in the communities who had participated in the proposal development.

Below you will find highlights from each year of the project evaluation. This project uses a developmental evaluation approach which focusses on engaging the team and communities in discussion about trends and emerging issues and documenting collective learning as the development work proceeds. We are also using more traditional evaluation methods such as feedback sheets, focus groups and interviews to track some aspects of the project work.

2019-2020
Year One

The first year was focused on getting the team in place, finding the right people in each community to guide the project. Read More >

2020-2021
Year Two

Two community gatherings were held in the Paqt’nkek community to share learning and insights and to reflect on the project impact. The most significant learning from these sessions was the need to develop a strategy for “Supporting the Supporters”.  Read More >

2021-2022
Year Three

Introducing SOSC to other communities, creating community-based opportunities for wellness and healing, and creating a network of culturally responsive service providers/partners were the highlights of this year. Read More >

2022-2023
Year Four

Highlights to come in June, 2023.