This year 2013 the Thakore Family Foundation, The India Club of Vancouver and the J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities at Simon Fraser University celebrates the 23rd annual Gandhi Jayanti Celebration with an Award to Lee Lakeman for her nearly forty years of working to end violence against all women.
On October 3rd, Lee will talk about her work with ending violence against women, women`s equality and strengthing the women`s movement.
Gandhi was able to both motivate and empower people – the common people – to stand against terrible injustice and take actions toward achieving a society based on principles of human community. Lee Lakeman and Mahatma Gandhi bothdevoted their lives to creativity, commitment, and a deep concern for truth in public life. And both had a passion for helping those who were the most marginalized.
Vancouver Rape Relief is the first rape crisis centre in Canada. Since 1973, VRRWS has operated as a Collective to run a 24-hour rape crisis line, and since 1981 a transition house for women escaping violent men. Having started one of the first transition houses in Canada and secured its initial funding, Lee Lakeman moved to Vancouver to join the Collective at VRRWS in 1978. She has remained highly active and become an internationally recognized feminist leader.
Ms. Lakeman’s expertise is strongly grounded in frontline work with women resisting men’s violence. In her first ten years alone at the VRRWS, Ms Lakeman answered at least one thousand crisis calls and assisted those women resisting male violence.
Her clear objective has been to strengthen the women’s movement. She can be credited with mentoring and developing several hundred women activists as members of the VRRWS collective and providing resources and support to the growth of other activist groups. Expecting that men of conscience would live up to their best, Ms. Lakeman initiated and chaired a committee of male allies who have, for over thirty-five years, raised funds and promoted the important work of VRRWS in the community.
Always rooted firmly in the base of front line work with raped and battered women, Ms. Lakeman has written and spoken widely on violence against women and women’s equality. She has authored many articles and book chapters; most recently “Ending Rape: The Canadian State Responsibility” was published in International Approaches to Rape. (Bristol, England: University of Bristol Press. 2011). Several years ago, she coordinated a five-year research and development project funded by Justice Canada at ten sites to examine the inadequacies of the criminal justice system on violence against women. She authored the final report, which was published more widely as a book entitled “Obsession with Intent: Violence Against Women (published by Black Rose Books).
Ms. Lakeman, working both as VRRWS and as an elected representative of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centers (CASAC), has been recognized internationally by feminists in India, Russia, Spain, Africa, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States as a leader in anti-violence work. She has represented VRRWS and CASAC internationally in coalitions of non-governmental agencies and in consultation on violence against women issues, including the preparation of two recent NGO reports to the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Most recently, Ms. Lakeman convened the Women’s Equality Coalition, comprised of seven groups from across Canada including the Native Women Association of Canada (NWAC) and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAFES) to bring the women’s equality perspective to the Supreme Court challenge to the Canadian prostitution laws. Canadian governments have sought Ms. Lakeman’s expertise as a representative of VRRWS and CASAC, resulting in the representation of the Canadian women’s movement in federal consultations on women’s issues and presentations to federal committees on violence, prostitution, and trafficking.
Lee Lakeman has devoted her adult life to interfering directly with violence against women, analyzing male violence against women as “a force which interferes with and prevent women living as men’s equals, and a consequence of the inequality between women and men” (from 99 Federal Steps: Toward and end to violence against women, by Lee Lakeman, 1993). She has imagined the possibilities of equality and freedom for all, and struggled creatively with other like-minded allies for changes that could end all male violence against women. She has chosen to do so from the Vancouver Rape Relief Collective, and ensured the democratic and egalitarian process of movement building. She chooses the path that benefits women, though it requires many personal sacrifices and difficulties. Many women’s lives have literally been saved through her work.