Shoppers on Spring Garden Road are in for a surprise on Sept. 15, when a parade of men in high heels will take to the streets as part of the annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes fundraiser.
These men are trading their sensible shoes for heels to raise money for the YWCA Halifax and their work to end violence against women and girls.
Part of a Canada-wide movement, the event is in its eighth year in Halifax. Last year, local walkers raised $8,000. This year, the goal is $15,000.
But Walk A Mile is much more than a simple fundraiser, says Keely Wallace, manager of fund development and communications at the YWCA Halifax.
“It’s a huge stand of solidarity with women who choose to leave violence,” she says. “We’re paying homage to the women who choose bravely to leave violence and walk towards something better.”
The YWCA Halifax provides the heels for the walk, which range from a kitten heel to a stiletto. Wallace says watching the men try out the heels is a funny sight. “When they stand up in them for the first time it kind of looks like Bambi learning how to walk.”
Unlike a lot of fundraising events, Walk A Mile takes place over lunchtime on a weekday. Wallace says they want to make it easier for people to participate without trying to fit in yet another activity on the weekend. Along with lending participants a pair of heels for the walk, they give them a bagged lunch at the end.
“It’s really over in 45 minutes,” she says. “So you’ve got your lunch, you’ve done some great philanthropy and you’ve learned hopefully a little bit about our work around violence against women. And then we send you back to work.”
Though the event is aimed at men, Wallace encourages anyone to come and walk alongside the men and to learn more about the issues of violence against women.
“This doesn’t just stop with the work that we do. It stops when people are educated and when people pass that education along,” says Wallace.
The walk will raise money for the YWCA Halifax’s violence to resilience work, including Safety Net, a cyber violence protection program for young women.
Dee Dooley is the youth programs coordinator at the YWCA Halifax. She says that Safety Net is about creating safe and empowering online environments for young women, “without telling them necessarily that they have to get offline.”
“In Halifax, in Canada and all across the world, cyber violence is a huge issue that women are facing now,” she says, pointing to Rehtaeh Parsons and the Dalhousie ‘Gentlemen’s Club’ as recent local examples.
Safety Net, and the YWCA Halifax’s other youth programs, are led by the youth that benefit from them. Dooley thinks this is a unique strength of their programs.
“I think that a lot of the time there’s this expectation that young women can’t really do much to effect change. But I’ve been blown away by all the youth I’ve worked with,” she says. “We work with an amazing group of young women and they’re the reason why we do what we do.”
For Dooley, Walk A Mile is also about more than just fundraising.
“We reach out to men and we get them to do this silly thing where they’re walking around in high heels, but it’s actually much bigger,” she says. “It’s about how allies can work together to raise awareness of violence against women and also take concrete actions to end it.”
To register for Walk A Mile, or to donate, visit http://ywcahalifax.com/our-events/walk-a-mile-in-her-shoes.html