“It is often said that history was written by men according to the newspaper La Gazette. But at the Center des femmes Solidaires et Engagées, it is women who have been writing history since 1978…
Indeed, we are at the end of the 70s. Our community is in full expansion and shows great activism. Most of the women of this generation who came to the country were housewives, isolated and unilingual. They were also workers, underpaid and mothers. Finally, they were Italians, very young immigrants, committed, academics and above all idealists…
During this same period, a group of young intellectuals and committed personalities created the Association de culture populaire italo-québécoise. Each week they met in a room located in the Villeray-St-Michel district to converse, write and promote ideas and to give free voice to our community.
Among the members of this new group, there are young university students such as: Assunta Sauro who, years later, became the Director of the Women’s Center for 20 years.
Quote: -Assunta Sauro, who, in a testimonial, said that together all these women embarked on the “ship” to undertake a long journey towards a new horizon. And this ship of which I wish to speak, she declares, did not cross the ocean. It was in fact, the path of awareness, on the part of these women: in the face of their problems and their deep feeling of dissatisfaction. This trip will allow them to travel with other women, the road, the path of hope, towards a process of emotional, social and economic autonomy and therefore, to have The Courage to Dream!
Finally, in 1978 the Italian Women’s Center was born. On March 22, 1978, more precisely, the Center held its first Board of Directors composed of Isa Iasenza, president, Giuseppina Barbusci, Tiziana Carafa, Roberta Giorgetti, Sabina Lanzolla, Loretta Mazzocchi, Margherita Morsella, Marie Antoinette Simoncini and Dominique Venetico and Assunta Sauro….
Among the priority objectives is to promote the social development of women in the Italian community of Montreal and in Quebec society, but also to encourage the adaptation of new arrivals to the reality of Quebec.
Admittedly, the ship left its port, It left in uncertain directions, and in storms sometimes heavy with consequences, at the heart of social change. The social struggles started 10 years earlier, were mainly local and international, they continued with relentlessness, in the Seventies. The revolutionary storms animated certain countries in the process of development.
Across Canada and Quebec, broad militant support has grown, through protests, or boycotts, the struggles against sexism, against poverty, to name a few, have turned the waters bubbling… The Italian Women’s Center of Montreal, meanwhile, continues to be very active and engaged in several protests and petitions to uphold the rights of immigrant women in Montreal. Other programs and projects are organized to contribute to the growth and integration of immigrant women into Quebec society.
The 80s were synonymous with action and awareness, this time on the theme of violence against women.
An important societal phenomenon over time.
Indeed, in February 1981, an important conference for the Italian community was organized on the theme of “Violence against women”. A subject to which the community was very sensitive because violence against women is an event that often occurs in our community, but that the people involved, out of fear or shame, do not want to address it publicly.
There was also resistance and boycott from some members of our organization as well as others from the community.
However, thanks to the determination of the organizers, a congress was finally able to take place. Several articles have been written and published on this subject, among others on the Bollettino del Centro Donne as well as on the Cittadino Canadese, and Mrs. Pina Di Pasquale, current director of the Center, and present for more than 21 years, still remembers the climate hatred and negative criticism towards several women for the sole reason that they were members of the Italian Women’s Center of Montreal. We will see with time, the evolution and the changes of mentality.
March 8, 1981, another pivotal date (official day at the United Nations), the Italian Women’s Center of Montreal organizes, for the first time in the history of the community, the International Day of Women’s Rights, an event that has been celebrated since 1977 formalized at the United Nations, still today after more than 40 years…
From 1985 to 1995 the Women’s Center continued to be a place of meeting, support and activities for women who wanted to break out of isolation.
From 1996 to 2003, the Center saw a continuous increase in requests for intervention from women in the community and several committees were formed: health, rights, art, theatre, crafts, newspaper ( L’Altra Faccia Della Luna) and other collective actions. All this is made possible thanks to the ever-increasing participation of women volunteers.
Staying true to its mission to educate the community about violence against women, the Center has adopted innovative ways to achieve these goals. A play, La Bella Figura, was produced and performed in various neighborhoods of Montreal; followed by a video of the play for distribution to the general population and a guide for facilitating discussion groups.
The Italian Women’s Center of Montreal, continues today its noble mission and helps to promote initiatives, conferences, information meetings, a library and a documentation center, with educational activities, collective actions, community life and services.
In 2014, immigration no longer existed in the Italian community, it was necessary to think about a new identity for the center. And given the changes in society, it was therefore obvious to rename in a more inclusive way, Le Center des Femmes Solidaires et Engagées.
The team’s work, supported by exemplary commitment, persevering dedication and love for others, under the direction of Pina Di Pasquale for 7 years, has ensured that the Center des Femmes Solidaires et Engagées still today, after 44 years of existence, continues its mission and proposes itself, not only as a Center of assistance, but also as an organization which offers women a place where they can feel understood and encouraged to take important life decisions.
This Center is a place where we find hope when all seems lost, where we help women find their own way, when they feel alone and abandoned, where their work is appreciated and valued, where they themselves feel valued.