Kadijah Photiades and Melissa Merritt founded Our Voices after the success of Sandy Cove’s Women’s March on Washington in late January.
This latest meeting will be an open circle discussion format and will create a safe space for anyone wanting to share thoughts and/or ideas.
The women’s march, organized by Merritt and Gwen Wilson, received worldwide attention after a video posted by Photiades went viral and spurred a sense of activism.
“The response we received was insane. I never thought the video would go viral the way it did, but we've sparked a movement and we’re going to keep it going,” she says.
Merritt says the discussion group was created after the women’s march participants had a dinner at which they wondered aloud at how to continue the dialogue.
Together they decided to start a series of talks on issues including feminism and the environment.
The first talk was held in February and was attended by six Digby Neck residents and eight employees from Yarmouth’s Tri-County Women’s Centre.
“We had a good response, for sure,” says Merritt.
Photiades came up with the open circle discussion format through her experience with drumming circles, which she says also acted as open, accepting spaces for the women who participated to talk about sensitive issues.
“It’s about creating a safe space for everybody to be strong within themselves,” she says.
“When I return to the rest of the world that’s very patriarchal, I miss these spaces.”
The discussion’s theme will be the internalization of patriarchy and misogyny, which both Photiades and Merritt agree many women in Digby County don’t even realize is happening.
“We can point our fingers outside or ourselves, but if we’re blind on what’s going on inside of ourselves, we’re unable to create change,” says Photiades.
Key: creating awareness
Merritt says only when ignorance is dispelled and awareness is created that the problem will lessen.
“This ignorance has repercussions. You have to know where you stand, and what you’re worth,” she says.
The discussion will create a patriarchy-free environment to show all those who attend what such a society would feel like.
Merritt and Photiades are both still receiving “outpourings of love and support” with regards to the women’s march and continue to receive letters from around the world, often expressing wonder at the small but mighty group of marchers.
One letter recently received was from a lesbian couple in Boston, MA, who said the march inspired them at a time they felt fear. The women were afraid their marriage would become illegal under President Trump and said the march was uplifting for them.
“It’s incredible to know our message has reached so many people and that it continues to do so,” says Merritt.
The group will continue hosting discussion meetings throughout the spring and fall seasons, with a break during busy summer months, and will grow to include discussions on environmental issues.
Photiades feels humbled to be initiating a conversation of radicalization. Merritt is excited to see where it’ll go.
“It feels brave,” says Merritt.
“It’s also terribly necessary, because I think it’s a real problem that many women don’t even realize they’re condoning it.”
Photiades says these issues could even have global ramifications and that radicalization is key to initiating change.
“We must learn how to be present to help the globe and the trouble that it’s in. It’s going to come from learning a new way to be, and being strong that way,” she says.