Dine IN Vancouver

Posted on December 17, 2012, by Ann Wright, Half the Sky Movement

Like many readers of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Meera Winsor was inspired by the stories of the women in the book and frustrated by the enormous challenges they face. With a three-year-old daughter of her own, she was particularly concerned about the overwhelming obstacles facing girls, including in Pakistan, where Meera was born.

After talking to her friends and family about the book, she says that she “felt helpless but desperately wanted to take action.” Meera did some research and was inspired by the mission of Dining for Women –– an organization whose members hold monthly dine in meetings and donate the money they would have used to dine out to a grassroots non-profit organization helping women and girls in the developing world. Borrowing the idea, Meera started her own Dine IN Vancouver project. 

   

Meera and other members of Dine IN Vancouver

 

On the third Saturday of each month, Meera invites her friends over to her house in Vancouver for a women’s only potluck dinner. Diners donate what they can to a partner non-governmental organization (NGO) of the Half the Sky Movement. Before starting the project, Meera carefully determined which issues to highlight and selected NGOs to fundraise for throughout the year. She reached out to each of them beforehand. “I like to feel connected and to have a relationship with the organizations, and of course, have a level of transparency through those relationships.” When she reaches out to an NGO, she asks about how her dine-in group can support them and how their contributions can make a difference to their work.

A therapist by trade, Meera has experience working with women who have been abused. She also sometimes volunteers at a drop-in center for women in the sex trade in Vancouver that is based on values of non-judgment and harm reduction. Because of these experiences, Meera felt an affinity for Apne Aap –– an organization founded by 21 former prostitutes to end sex trafficking in India. This year alone, with the help of individuals like Meera and her dine-in group, Apne Aap has offered vocational training to 730 women, giving them an alternative livelihood to prostitution, and helped 100 women get access to safe and independent housing.

One issue that she had no knowledge of prior to reading the book was fistula. Meera was shocked to learn that such a preventable childbirth injury had such devastating effects on the lives of young women in the developing world.

With her network of friends and neighbors, she has raised money for many of the organizations from the book, including Mukhtar Mai Women’s Rights Project, Sister Somalia and the Hamlin Fistula Hospital –– for a total of $2,500 to date.

Meera says Dine IN Vancouver has “created a stronger community, where women can come together to discuss and contribute to these issues at the same time enjoy good food and each others company.” She’s excited to continue and expand the program next year. Though it’s a women’s only event, Meera says they would make an exception for one man: Nicholas Kristof.

If you have any questions for Meera, she has kindly offered to answer via email at m_winsor@shaw.ca.

What has the Half the Sky Movement inspired you to do? Share your story.