The YWCA Muskoka’s Walk A Mile event is back in person this weekend for the first time in three years, and they’re partnering with Muskoka Pride to shift the focus of the walkathon.
Before the pandemic, the YWCA hosted Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, where men walked in heels to bring awareness to violence against women. This year, the event has been rebranded to Walk A Mile In Their Shoes in an attempt to better demonstrate the realities of gender-based violence. Hannah Lin, executive director of YWCA Muskoka, said that with people of all genders living in Muskoka, she hopes locals will realize that the issue is not one that impacts women alone.
“Abuse crosses income, race, ability and gender – it can happen to anyone, no matter their background or circumstance, but it’s important to know that women, girls, Indigenous and racialized women, trans, gender-diverse and queer people are at the highest risk of experiencing gender-based violence,” Lin said.
More than four in 10 women have experienced intimate partner violence, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, and a woman is killed by her partner approximately every six days in Canada. The risk is even higher for trans and queer people as well as disabled, non-white and Indigenous women.
For the first few walkathons, the YWCA was able to raise about $15,000 at each event. The most recent in-person walk in 2019 raised $25,000, leading the organization to raise their fundraising goal to $30,000 for this year. The money will fund programs like YWCA Quest, which helps teach boys how to express their emotions, in addition to funding events that are inclusive for two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (2SLGBTQIA+) youth.
“Through COVID, the demand for services, and particularly for youth programs, has increased,” Lin said. “We’re excited to be back in person again and hope people will help us as we expand the reach of both our organizations’ services as the pandemic subsides.”
The walk will start at Memorial Park in Bracebridge at 11 a.m. on May 29 followed by a barbeque. Walkers can register as individuals or as part of a team and there’s no minimum fundraising requirement to participate.
While the event previously had just men walking, everyone is encouraged to get involved this year. Once the team at the YWCA decided to shift the focus of the event, they knew they wanted to partner with Muskoka Pride as longtime supporters of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community as well as the Walk A Mile event.
“Muskoka Pride has been an incredibly supportive organization, bringing attention and people to this event ever since we started in 2014,” Lin said. “They are also entirely volunteer run and we knew they were also working with a community of people that experiences gender-based violence directly.”
Shawn Forth is on the Walk A Mile In Their Shoes planning committee and acts as the secretary of the board for Muskoka Pride. He said it’s fantastic to see the event become more inclusive and recognize the increased risk of violence faced by queer and trans people.
“Gender-based violence can happen to anyone, and also we want everyone to be able to take part and be involved,” Forth said. “In addition, [we’re] recognizing that trans, two-spirit and queer individuals face their own form of gender-based violence through the form of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia.”
The partnership between the two organizations is a perfect fit, he said, because they’re both working to educate the community and prevent violence and abuse. They each pay special attention to working with youth in hopes of building a future where events like this aren’t necessary, but for now, Walk A Mile plays an important role in bringing attention to a problem that otherwise exists largely behind closed doors.
“The event is changing with the times and it’s becoming more inclusive,” Forth said. ”Recognizing that there are many organizations in Muskoka who are working to create a better society, this is a partnership between two organizations that saw a lot of commonalities and a lot of overlap in our work, and we saw the opportunity to collaborate and work together to make things even better.”
To learn more about Walk A Mile In Their Shoes, or to register for the walk, click here.