Women's Memorial March returns for its 20th year
//Liz Hourigan, Writer

The first place I experienced culture shock was on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. Not long after finishing high school on Vancouver Island, I went to visit a friend who had started at UBC, and found myself in a little building called Insite, just off Main and Hastings, waiting for her to finish up. That day I learned a few things; you can buy single cigarettes at the counter of several of the convenience stores on East Hastings, anyone can be a heroin addict and no one deserves to feel abandoned to that place. When my friend ended up living on the streets as a sex worker later that year, I didn’t go to look for her. I’m glad she had people looking after her there, because a few years later she made her way back out. The Vancouver Women’s Memorial March is held to express compassion, community and caring for the many women still existing as sex workers on the DTES that face the very real potential of experiencing violence on a daily basis, and to honour those that have fallen victim to it.

The Women’s Memorial March has been happening every year since 1991, on February 14. It was initially held has a response to the murder of a woman on Powell St., but is now held to show compassion for the living, as well as to honour the lives of all of the murdered and missing women of the DTES. While this event is held to raise awareness of the issues faced by women that have turned to prostitution as a means to survive, there will be no commercially noted presence of the frontline outreach programs that work in the community.

“Banners would not be appropriate to the message of the event,” says Karen Mirsky, of the Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education society. PACE is a sex worker-led and driven organization offering low-barrier programming, support and safe respite for sex workers in Vancouver. The only banners visible at the event will be the five that are carried in the march to honour the women.

Katie Hyslop, a reporter for Megaphone, Vancouver’s street paper, explained the more subtle aspects of how the event is careful to balance the interests of the families in mourning, and the equally important cause of raising awareness of the serious need for women of the DTES to receive proper representation and protection by our legal system.

Two weeks of commemoration events leading up to the march began on January 30, with a sweatlodge ceremony. Attendees of the event said that it had been a deeply moving and private experience that allowed for women to experience healing. Dalannah Bowen, the organizer of the Women’s Memorial March, says that the march is “important because everybody has a mother, aunt, wife or sister and this is happening in every community across the globe. Each time a woman suffers at the hands of violence, we cannot just stand in the sidelines and complain, because when one woman is hurt a small piece of every one of us suffers. I encourage everyone to take the opportunity join hands on this issue and show solidarity at the Women’s Memorial March.”

Further info available at

//By Liz Hourigan

Upcoming Events:

February 5 – “Honouring Our Women” poetry night at Carnegie Centre (Main & Hastings)

February 9 – “Strength, Survival, Sisterhood” launch of DTES Power of Women movie, speakers from the DTES, screening of Finding Dawn – Vivo Media Arts Centre (1965 Main Street), doors at 6 p.m.

February 11 – Night of Music at W2 (151 W. Cordova) with Bitterly Divine, Murray Porter, Faith Nolan, Little Hawk and more. Doors at 7 p.m.

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