Gender Equity in the Waterloo Region

By Racheal Walser 

keep choosing change in the waterloo region

The actions of Geovanny Villalba-Aleman at the University of Waterloo on Wednesday June 28 2023 paint a clear image of their fears. Hatred weaponized someone who lived with considerable privilege, who was highly educated, and welcome in spaces where trust was implicit. His actions had life changing consequences, and are a recent manifestation of a power that women, transgender and non-binary individuals, are already well acquainted with.

"There are no real safe spaces in the community"

Gender-based hate crimes

Gender-based hate crimes (or hate-motivated crimes) are a consequence of gender inequalities. They disproportionately affect women, transgender and non-binary individuals, as well as anyone perceived as not complying with prevailing gender norms. These crimes are meant to intimidate and suppress ways of life or expressions of identity that are perceived as not complying with the traditional gender norms preferred by the attacker, and the mindset perpetuated onto and by them.

What happened on June 28th in a classroom just up the street from where all work, live, and play was a gender-based hate motivated crime. A “senseless act of hate,” said Mark Crowell, chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

But is not the most recent of such incidents.

"It happens all the time, like on the streets, like every day on every street. Like every time you walk down the sidewalk. More so in a larger city like Kitchener."

project willow

From our Project Willow research, we know that 100% of transgender and non-binary individuals without access to their own safe housing experience transphobia daily. We know that 94% of women, transgender and non-binary individuals without access to their own safe housing experience acts of gender-based violence atleast once a week, but in most of these cases – more often. (On any given day 96% experience verbal violence, 79% experience emotional or mental violence, and 54% experience physical harm.)

"You know, in my younger days, I never said nothing. I spent many years in abuse and kind of smiled it away. Right? Yeah, I guess at some point you can't smile anymore. You can't hide it, right?"

"Because you fight back, you're more likely to end up dead. And that's really how I lived for the first few years of my life by myself. And it caused me a lot of emotional trauma, complex trauma disorder, you know like PTSD."

"A lot of times, a lot of people don't want to get involved. They'll just walk right by ya."

gbv across ontario

At this point, in 2023, twenty six local governments across Ontario have labelled Violence Against Women as an epidemic. Is it possible we are seeing change to people walking past violence and doing nothing about it?

A label is important, it allows for greater systemic intervention – but how will it help those seeking safety for themselves and their families through our Emergency Shelter tonight? How will it aid those trying to rebuild themselves through our Housing programs and our Career Services right now? How will this change help the families who wake up early to get to work and that bring their children into our childcare programs?

The thing is – that as the headlines about Geovanny Villalba-Aleman scrolled past we shook our heads. Not just because it was an awful thing, but because we know it is just one of the awful things to have happened in our community on that day.

The solution for June 28th 2023 is the same as it was over a century ago when our building at 84 Frederick was first constructed.

Gender equity. We can no longer avoid this being anything but an intentional choice – in our systems, in our policies, in our procedures. And the thing with this sort of change – is that it has always been started at the community level; women, trans and non-binary people make up half of the Region’s population. It’s time to come together with each other, with our allies. It’s time to continue choosing change.

"This is what I was talking about earlier, eh, because I have a lot of knowledge. And I said, just give me a classroom, right, with just twenty women for one day, right, and just one room with them and me and I would tell them so much, and teach them so much. What I went through and how to deal with it now. Just give me one class."


* indicates required

Follow us on

Support the YW

Improve the lives of thousands of women and families in our community.

REcent posts

Skip to content