Links and Resources
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Community Learning Network (Vancouver)
Events and Actions
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Stories of Change
Our first story comes to us from Sheatre Educational Alternative Theatre (Huron) in Kemble, Ontario. Joan Chandler writes:
In 1986, Sheatre presented theatre to the Ontario government Taskforce on Midwifery. A group of legislators toured the province to collect information from "key informants" in order to investigate the need for amending the law which stated that midwifery was illegal, and to create appropriate legislation.
Women Today, a rural women's organization, was asked to make a presentation. They brought together Sheatre and a local group of women comprised of home birth mothers and a midwife in order to bring a truly grassroots statement to the Taskforce. Our group was extraordinary, in that the others who were called to speak to the government were medical professionals and midwives... not the women who were the "stakeholders". We represented the women and children most affected by the legislation. The group felt the pressure of this responsibility and had some stage fright, but the stakes were high. It affected the health and freedom of women in Ontario in perpetuity.
The day before the taskforce was to meet in London, a government representative called Women Today to tell us that we could not present our dramatic image theatre piece, nor could we work to animate anything with the "audience" of fellow presenters and onlookers. The Executive Director of Women Today said, "Do you mean to say that the women of Huron County, the constituents of the Minister of Health, can not be heard by the Minister's Taskforce?" (The minister was our regional MPP.) They backed down, and allowed our presentation. In addition to our scenes, I also animated a midwife/homebirth machine with participation by others in the gallery.
In every other circumstance across the province, speeches were the only form of presentation. The panel would listen and make notes, but said nothing to the presenters. However, after our dramatisation, the leader of the Taskforce looked up from her notes, peered over the imposing dais of the
courtroom, and said, "That is the most powerful presentation we have seen in our travels across the province. (pause) It 's too bad you can't work with the doctors." These were the only commments ever made by the Taskforce to any of the presenters. We broke her silence
Our work helped to change the law; midwifery became legal. You can imagine how that felt to the women and children who were a part of this.
We were invited to present at a Midwives convention in Toronto the following year (1988). It was quite a celebration.