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New program empowers women on campus

UTSC Senior Lecturer Connie Guberman, Scarborough Women's Centre Executive Director Lynda Kosowan, MP Corneliu Chisu, BAC Project Manager Reshma Dhrodia, and UTSC Director, Student Life, Liza Arnason at the Scarborough Women's Centre announcement. (Photo by Ken Jones)

The university experience is about personal change – how we understand the world, how we explore it, and how we respond to it. A new program at UTSC is designed to have an impact on the way men and women understand violence against women, and help them prevent it.

The program, called Build Act Change, is being funded by a $200,000 federal grant from Status of Women Canada to the Scarborough Women’s Centre, which will work in partnership with UTSC. Corneliu Chisu, MP for Pickering-Scarborough East, made the announcement on Wednesday.

“Campuses are not particularly violent,” says Connie Guberman, UTSC senior lecturer in women and gender studies. “But young women and men come from their communities, they spend some time in university, and then they graduate and they go back into the community. There‘s a huge opportunity to take what they learn and to be different kinds of adults in the world, adults who end violence.”

The program will provide safe spaces where women can talk about problems of violence, and it will provide opportunities for men and women to talk about their experiences. It will also include educational components such as posters and lectures.

“The Build Act Change project promotes a culture of safety where young women feel secure and empowered to talk about their safety, and young men are engaged as allies to help address the issues,” says Lynda Kosowan, executive director of the Scarborough Women’s Centre.

Desmond Pouyat, UTSC dean of student affairs, says that the program will foster important dialogue with students and stimulate action for change.

“Campus safety is not just about what happens on campus,” says Guled Arale, vice-president, external for the SCSU. There are real-world issues that don’t stop when a student comes onto the campus. We hope students can take the lessons they learn here and apply them to life beyond the campus.”

UTSC partners in the project include the Department of Student Life, the Scarborough Campus Student Union, the campus police, staff and faculty members, and a number of student clubs and volunteers.

The UTSC grant is just one of 21 projects, several in the GTA, totaling $4 million from Status of Women Canada, announced by the Honourable Rona Ambrose, minister of public works and government services and minister for status of women. All of the projects were intended to fund projects at universities and colleges aimed at reducing violence against women.

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