Crisis & Change, Our Work, Our People
Supporting Women Against Violence Begins with Us: It takes ordinary people to make extraordinary change
Curated by Karli Longthorne
June 16, 2023
Taking action to foster positive social change for women in rural communities begins with us. Everyday rural women are leading the charge by offering support to survivors of domestic violence and advocating for an end to violence against women through public protests. Linda Smith is a prime example of a women's rights activist who has dedicated herself to this cause. Linda has spent 68 years living, working, and volunteering in rural Norfolk County and Oxford County. She has been instrumental in raising awareness of violence against women as a former member of the union’s women's committee at CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll, where she worked for over 30 years. Currently, Linda serves as the program coordinator at the Women's Employment Resource Centre (WERC) in the City of Woodstock, where she inspires women to pursue careers in skilled trades and empowers them with the resources to achieve financial independence.
“The people are why I enjoy living and working in a rural community,” notes Linda. “The relationships I have made throughout my career, whether that’s from a previous workplace or women’s event I volunteer at, I like that I have a connection with the people I encounter in and around my community.”
Looking back on her time with CAMI Assembly, Linda reflects on how she misses her co-workers and involvement in women’s advocacy events and activities associated with her work in the union. For over 14 years Linda played an active part in organizing and hosting the Take Back the Night event, held in Oxford County. Speaking about those subjected to violence Linda says, “You always hear people ask, what was she doing out at night alone? but you never hear others say this about men,” states Linda. She emphasizes how this internationally recognized event is an important way to change this narrative.
“Advocating for women who are experiencing violence at home is a social issue close to my heart. I have witnessed friends and neighbours experience violence at home, and helping transport them to safety, or talk about their experiences is an important way to show my support,” says Linda.
Throughout Linda's career and numerous volunteer positions in her community, her commitment and advocacy for women have been steadfast. She has served as a board member for the Women's Employment Resource Centre and Ingamo Homes, a program that provides transitional support for women and their children who are escaping violence. Linda has coordinated the STICH supper club, a community kitchen addressing local food security issues, among other roles. Her active involvement in these organizations has given her extensive practical knowledge about the challenges that women face in Oxford and Norfolk Counties, including the obstacles that make it more difficult for them to leave violent situations.
One of the primary obstacles that hinders rural women's ability to seek help is the lack of transportation. Since public transportation systems like buses or streetcars are not common in rural areas, having access to a vehicle is essential for women to commute to work, access childcare, or flee from a violent living situation. For many rural women, the absence of transportation makes it challenging to leave an abusive relationship or access necessary services such as shelters or healthcare facilities.
Moreover, rural women whose first language is not English face difficulties accessing education and resources to seek help. The language barrier limits their ability to read and write English, which impedes their capacity to access information related to seeking help. Even though some resource centres in Oxford County and Norfolk County aim to provide resources in various languages, the language used may not be suitable for someone whose first language is not English.
As Linda notes, cities provide better access to organizations and infrastructure that support women facing similar challenges. However, in rural areas, lack of transportation and limited access to education and resources pose significant obstacles to empowering women and ending violence against them.
One way rural communities can better support women is by promoting and providing opportunities for women to pursue meaningful employment in skilled trades. Linda, in her role as the Program Coordinator at the Women's Employment Resource Centre, has been actively involved in creating pathways for women to enter skilled trades in Oxford County. She emphasizes the importance of encouraging women to pursue careers in skilled trades rather than in traditionally female-dominated jobs, such as retail, which often pay minimum wage and offer only part-time hours, leaving women struggling to make ends meet. By promoting and supporting women in skilled trades, rural communities can help to create economic stability for women and their families.
Throughout her time at the Women’s Employment Resource Centre, Linda has coordinated various events featuring guest speakers who share their expertise in their skilled trade including, but not limited to, Millwrighting, Crane operations, and Sheet Metal Work.
A career in skilled trades can provide women with a higher paying job and benefits, which can lead to financial independence for themselves and their children. This is a significant factor in empowering women, as it allows them to be self-sufficient and have the option to leave violent situations without relying on a partner. According to Linda, who has worked in industry and various advocacy roles, “women are incredibly resilient and have to be to survive, especially if you are a single mother, you are responsible for earning money and raising your children.”
Linda emphasizes the importance of making resources for women more widely known, despite being poorly funded. “Women could benefit greatly from knowing about the resources available to them, such as how to access women's shelters or government programs that provide funding for entering skilled trades,” shares Linda. “I believe that spreading awareness of these programs can make a significant difference in the lives of women who may not otherwise know about them.”
Domestic Violence Resources
If you, or someone you know is a woman and are looking for domestic violence support in and around Oxford County please see this website: https://daso.ca
Location: Domestic Abuse Services Oxford County, 975 James St, Woodstock ON. (519)-539-4811, OPEN 24/7
If you are a woman and are interested in skilled trades please see this website: http://www.fanshawec.ca
If you are a women and are looking for assistance with employment in and around Oxford County please see this website: https://www.southwesthealthline.ca/displayservice.aspx?id=15055
Transcript of Infographic
Title: Breaking Barriers
Sub-title: Empowering women in skilled trades
Sub-title description: discover the power of women in skilled trades: exploring the impact, resources for success & retention, and success stories in Oxford County
Title: 5% of skilled trades workers in Canada are women
Picture description: Background of grey bricks with the centre pushed out
Title: Unveiling the power of skilled trades in rural Ontario
Description: By harnessing the expertise and dedication of skilled tradespeople, rural Ontario thrives as a hub of craftsmanship, innovation, and economic growth. In rural Ontario, skilled trades play a pivotal role in...
Maintaining & enhancing rural infrastructure Picture description: icon of two people building a house Providing vital support to local industries (Picture description: icon of a structural foundation of a new build made from wood)
Enabling smooth operation of resource industries (Picture description: icon of two processing wheels)
Fostering self-sufficiency and resilience within rural areas (Picture description: icon of 2 shaking hands in the shape of a heart)
Creating job opportunities (Picture description: icon of hard hat with a hammer sitting on it)
Driving economic activity and the sustainable development of rural communities (
Block 4: Title: Resources for success and retention
Sub-title: In oxford county
Sub-heading 1: Women-led unions
Description: Unions play a crucial role in protecting and advancing the interests of women in the workplace by addressing unique issues facing women--like ensuring access to women's washrooms, sanitary supplies, and proper disposal. Larger organizations may even provide childcare for shift workers, benefiting both women and men who are caretakers.
Picture description: icon of 4 different coloured hands on top of each other
Sub-heading 2: Women’s employment resource centre
Description: Publicly-funded organizations in rural centres, like the women's employment resource centre in Woodstock, Ontario, are opening doors for young women entering skilled trades. They provide high school students with access to motivational speakers who are women in trades, employment networks, and even AI tools that simulate the trades environment.
Picture description: icon of a person with a work suitcase in front of them
Sub-heading 3: Early access
Description: Early Access to Skilled Trades Training in High School: Partnerships between public employment resource centers and high schools offer earlier and more inclusive access to skilled trades as a potential career path. For instance, one Woodstock high school allowed students to take 2-3 periods a week to work on a construction site as part of an apprentice program. This provided students with high school credits while gaining early exposure to the skilled trade field.
Picture description: Icon of a lock that is unlocked and has a clock in front
Sub-heading 4: Government programs & partnerships
Description: Governments may provide grants or subsidies to support skills development and training in the trades. Partnerships between government programs + union representatives + employment centres are essential in advancing women's health and well-being, while breaking down barriers in traditionally male-dominated industries.
Picture description: icon of 2 hands shaking
Title: Stories of success
Feature 1: Linda Smith, Skilled trades program coordinator, women’s employment resource centre in Woodstock, ON
Description: Meet Linda Smith, the Skilled Trades Program Coordinator at the Women's Employment Resource Centre in the City of Woodstock. With a passion for empowering women, Linda's mission is to equip women with the necessary resources and guidance, so they can thrive in the skilled trades industry and achieve a self-sustaining lifestyle.
Picture description: Headshot of Linda smiling (view: from chest up) characteristics: shoulder length brown hair, black framed glasses, earrings, white-presenting woman
Feature 2: Destinee Renaud, Welder Team Lead, Tigercat Industries, Woodstock, ON
Description: Destinee has been building forestry equipment for 7 years. Her responsibilities include ensuring the smooth and timely operation of the production line and filling in for absent team members. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences with new employees, constantly learning and growing in her role. Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP): Destinee's journey as a welder began when she enrolled in the OYAP welding course at Lambton College as a dual credit through CASS. OYAP provided her with a free educational opportunity, and she joined Tigercat through a co-op placement from the program. "High school students interested in trades should explore OYAP. It was the starting point of my success," recommends Destinee.
Picture description: Destinee standing holding a welding helmet in her PPE (view: from waist up) Characteristics: White-presenting woman, blonde hair pulled back in pony tail
Feature 3: Kaylyn Haycock, Licensed Gas Fitter/HVAC Technician
Description: Kaylyn is a skilled professional in the field of residential heating and cooling, working as a licensed Gas Fitter and HVAC Technician for Albert’s Burner Service Inc., a family-owned company. With nearly 8 years of experience in the trade, Kaylyn has found immense satisfaction and fulfillment in her career. As a woman in the trades, " I have had an interesting and rewarding experience. I hope to inspire and support young girls who are considering a career in the trades but may have doubts," notes Kaylyn. As an HVAC technician, Kaylyn encounters something new and exciting almost every day. From fascinating installations like the state-of-the-art Gyro Focus 360 swivel suspended wood-stove to working in confined spaces, her job constantly presents unique challenges. Kaylyn's fearlessness and lack of claustrophobia or arachnophobia have been assets in tackling such situations. "I embrace the ever-evolving nature of the trades industry, with its technological advancements and innovative ideas, and look forward to continuous learning and growth, adapting to the changing times and contributing to the progress of the trade," says Kaylyn.
Picture description: Kaylyn smiling standing wearing PPE, (view: from waist up) characteristics: white-presenting woman, shoulder length brown hair in pony tail, wearing sunglasses)