Different kind of pyjama party raises awareness

Sisters Elizabeth and Alicia Cooper raised awareness for women’s shelters while collecting pyjamas at their second annual Reclaiming Dignity event. Jordan Janisse

The second annual Reclaiming Dignity: A Pajama Party, an event to raise awareness about the abuse of women and the need for support in women’s shelters was a success this past Saturday, Oct. 2.

With pyjama donations piled up at the door, live bands, a silent auction, buffet-style food and displays for shelters lining the hall and auditorium of the Manitoba Museum, the aim of the event was to have a good time while bringing a dark subject to light.

“Everybody should be able to have a fresh start, every day should be better than the one before,” said event organizer Elizabeth Cooper.

Cooper, along with her sister, Alicia Cooper, decided to form the event after participating in a conference in Regina, Sask. two years ago about missing, abused and murdered women. 

She said that the idea for collecting pyjamas came from the fact that last year over 2,000 women had to use emergency shelters and they usually didn’t have time to pack pyjamas.

“Pyjamas are something safe and secure – it is a first step to a fresh start,” she said.

Cooper invited women who are using the shelters to come out to the event to share their stories and see the support they have in taking that first step.

Sharon Morgan, executive director of women’s shelter Ikwe Widdjiitiwin, is happy to see a fun event to raise awareness.

“I do believe that there can never be too much publicity towards domestic violence ...  these types of events really help us a lot,” she said.

Ikwe and Osborne House are the emergency women’s shelters that will receive donations of pyjamas from the event.

Women and their children entering the shelter are given pyjamas, hygiene products, bedding and an allowance of $1.90 a day for a fresh start in their lives. Generally, stays are limited to 30 days.

“Often they are coming from situations where they don’t have time to pack their things,” said Jen Kehler, provincial co-ordinator for Manitoba Association of Women’s Shelters (MAWS).  “It (pyjamas) gives them a sense of relief that they can feel comfortable. It is a basic.” 

The association governs nine of the 10 in-province shelters and maintains communication with federal shelters on reserves.

“We are very thankful for the Coopers to bring it upon themselves to raise awareness for the shelters,” she said.

Aside from pyjamas, Kehler stresses the shelters need more funding as monetary donation goals are not being met and, as a result, staff are being reduced.

“When we have to cut positions, the follow-up work and programs need to be cut as well,” she said.

Kehler hopes that events like Reclaiming Dignity: A Pajama Party can continue to raise awareness so the shelters can grow to accommodate all victims of abuse and incorporate more programs.

Pyjama donations can be dropped off at the Closet Chick – 938 Portage Ave.

Published in Volume 65, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 7, 2010)

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