Carleton band helps charity celebrate 25th anniversary

The Women’s Initiatives For Safer Environments (WISE) held their twenty-fifth anniversary celebration and fundraiser on Sept. 23. The Tackies were one of three local Ottawa bands who performed at the fundraiser. The group met as Carleton music majors three years prior where they became quick friends and eventually started the band.  

The event took place at Bar Robo, a cozy spot to grab a cocktail and listen to live music. Nestled on the corner of Somerset Street and Cambridge Street, the dimly lit bar was host to an intimate crowd of WISE volunteers and supporters.

“The bar itself is very connected to WISE,” Tackies lead singer Hans Vivian-Wenzel said. “They do their part in trying to make it a safe environment for women.”

Having been together as a band for two years now, it was apparent these four were not new to performing. They held the attention of the audience with their varied guitar sections, building percussion, funky keyboard, and complimentary vocals.  Having being newly introduced to WISE, they spoke of their interest in learning more about the organization.  

“The crowd was really receptive which I really enjoyed,” Wenzel said when asked about his take on the event. “They listened to the words. And I know that because they are a crowd that really cares because there’s a cause.”

Since 1992, the registered charity has been directly aiding the Ottawa community by providing workshops and safety audits within the city, focussing on a variety of issues. These issues range from personal security tailored towards women living in shelters to male focussed youth education surrounding issues of sexism in the hopes of creating a wider understanding surrounding violence against women.

The music was not the only aspect of the evening that captivated the crowd. MC Nasreen Rajani, a Carleton doctoral student and WISE board member spoke passionately on behalf of the charity.  In a speech outlining one of WISE’s most recent completed projects, Rajani described the work they did in association with OC Transpo Security, City Project Leaders, and construction crews in regards to the new Light Rail Transit pedestrian walkway at St. Laurent station.

“This new walkway, though narrow and curvy, will now be accentuated by extensive lighting, artwork, increased emergency features located along the main points, and accessible signage and features,” she said.   

In a moment of reflection, Valerie Collicott, WISE’s policy and administrative co-ordinator and a member of the organization for 22 years,  recounted the reason for WISE’s inception back in the 90s.

“There was a rash of sexual assaults in the downtown Ottawa area and some concerned citizens . . . about 300 people met at a public meeting and decided more needed to be done about women’s safety in public spaces in the city,” Collicott said.  

She spoke passionately about many new programs being implemented in the near future, yet also acknowledged their need to increase their staff in order to be able to carry out their goals.

“Wouldn’t it be great to have more staff; a bigger outreach,” exclaimed Collicott with a smile spreading across her face.  

She added that she thinks the possibility of expansion would help WISE reach a larger percentage of women in Ottawa.  

“Women in rural areas have particular challenges around safety.  There’s isolation and there’s not as many services as there is in the city,” she said.  

“We would encourage people to share information with people they suspect may be experiencing abuse,” Collicott said. “It’s sometimes a tricky thing because you do not want to put them at risk of anything, but make sure they know you are out there to support them.”

If you or anyone you know may need help, you can call the Ontario Assaulted Women’s helpline at 1(866) 863-7868 and the Distress Centre Ottawa at 1-613-238-3311 24 hours a day. For housing and shelter information, you can call the Interval House of Ottawa at 613-234-5181.  

Photo by Aaron Hemens