September 2, 2013
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
"The reality is that gender discrimination still exists in so many different forms in our world. We all need to continue to work to eliminate that," said Linda Winski.
One of 10 women honoured as Daughters of the Year, Winski, 65, is a prime example of someone who has sought to remove gender discrimination in Edmonton. She was given her award at the second annual Daughters Day celebration, held Aug. 24 at Edmonton City Hall.
Daughters Day celebrates the lives, contributions and achievements of all girls and women.
The general public was asked to think of women who impress them for how they make life better in the community, how they exemplify qualities or actions that inspire others, or demonstrate exceptional achievement, perhaps in the face of significant challenges.
Among the award recipients was Winski, who has worked for the Edmonton Archdiocese's social justice office and in the ecumenical Inner City Pastoral Ministry. She was nominated by Bob McKeon, the archdiocese's director of social justice.
"We must ensure that every child who is born, female or male, has the opportunity to develop their full human potential in a supportive atmosphere and without fear," said Winski.
Her family life, work and commitment to social justice are the foundational pieces of her impartial love for others. She is strongly supportive to all in need.
"Race, education, religion, social status and gender played no part in Linda's evaluation of people. I learned from her that the way you respond to people is usually the way they in turn will respond to you," said Anne Marie Venne, who worked with Winski for more than 10 years on the Social Justice Commission.
In the 1970s, Winski opened her home to the community, providing friendship, hospitality, prayer and a listening ear at The Dwelling Place. She later worked with Edmonton's urban core communities.
She worked with the archdiocese's Social Justice Commission for 18 years. Many of the committees she worked with were related to issues pertaining to women, such as women in poverty, the role of women in the Church and care for the elderly.
In 2001, she urged Alberta Catholics to get involved in an action campaign aimed at enhancing understanding of aboriginal rights issues and the importance of land for native people.
She has been active in the Outdoor Way of the Cross planning committee.
On 2005, Winski was joined Inner City Pastoral Ministry, an ecumenical Christian ministry serving the people of Edmonton's inner city. Founded in 1978, its goal is the proclamation of the Christian Gospel by word and deed in the inner city.
Winski made a special contribution with women, at shelters, street corners, and weekly gatherings for Sunday worship and brunch at the Bissell Centre.
"I moved away from doing the education and presentations and the 'head stuff' to working on the ground with people, and just seeing the devastation of family violence and sexual abuse.
"So many women who end up on the streets are women who had no opportunity in their early life to grow up with any sense of self-esteem. They were always put down or used or abused. That leads to this whole cycle of dependency and addictions. It really is disturbing that we still have so much of that present in our society," said Winski.
She has remained deeply committed to her family as well. Her husband died on their son's sixth birthday, and she raised her son as a single parent. Her dependent adult foster-sister lives with her, and she stays in daily contact with her mother in a long-term care facility.
"My mother was a very strong advocate for justice for the underdog," said Winski. "Growing up in the Roman Catholic tradition, I had absolutely no clue about biblical justice or social justice. It was a very traditional upbringing."
Through Father Leo Floyd and visiting Scarboro mission priests, she started to gain an understanding about social justice.
"We have this wonderful body of Catholic social teaching that is all about calling for justice for all people. My faith was very important to me, but there was always this niggling little thing that it wasn't a complete understanding of my faith," she said.
Going to a small Catholic school as a child, she questioned something, and the principal told her that she should listen to what St. Paul said about women being subservient to men. His words didn't seem right.
As she learned more about liberation theology and encountering the works of feminist theologians, she began to understand her faith even more.
"The economic vulnerability, the emotional vulnerability, those kinds of things aren't foreign to me, so perhaps I have some empathy for those who are marginalized. I've always felt on the margins, which is a good place to be because it's where we meet Christ," said Winski.
Made of up over 40 community organizations, Daughters Day volunteers work to ensure that every daughter has full opportunity to achieve all she can without discrimination or abuse.
In this century most immigrants to Canada have come from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, China, the Middle East and Africa. They bring with them their traditions, both good and bad, including discrimination against girls, born and unborn.
In some countries, aborting females before birth is a common practice. There are also deplorable stories about honour killings, bride burning, and depriving daughters of education and participation in some sports. Such discriminatory practices have occurred in Canada.
After discussion about the need to condemn and eliminate such practices, some Edmonton residents sought to increase awareness about those "daughters" who are loving, caring and sharing human beings, mothers and leaders in fields such as medicine, business, arts, education and politics.
"Supporting the success of immigrants and urban core women, making life better in rural Alberta, fighting human trafficking and family violence, achieving personal bests in athletics, advocating on behalf of missing indigenous women, and sharing talents as a human rights volunteer are some of the ways in which the Daughters of the Year are creating better communities for all of us," said Daughters Day chairperson Charan Khehra.
The inaugural Daughters Day event was held last year with almost 400 people attending.
This year's event featured a self-guided walk that began at City Hall and moved to eight sites in the area, with information at each site about the accomplishments of women.
The entire celebration was aimed at sending a message to families about respecting human rights of girls and women, and to abhor violence against them.
"The inspirational examples of the Daughters of the Year demonstrate why the goal of Daughters Day to ensure an end to all discrimination and abuse of daughters is so important," said Jim Gurnett, Daughters Day project coordinator.
Aside from Winski, the other Daughters of the Year are Rebecca Fitzsimmons, Mona Gill, April Lam, Andrea Payne, Laura Smith, Shawnay McRorie, Christina Nsaliwa, Corissa Tymafichuk and April Wiberg.
Of these young recipients, Winski said, "It's good to know that there is a whole generation of people who are becoming more aware of these social issues and are willing to go out there and do something about them."