By Lauren Edwards
“Women still have to fight their way,” says Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society and honouree of the 2019 Influential Women in Business Awards. “Women are still raped, assaulted and murdered.” For 26 years, Abbott has been addressing the pressing issue of violence against women in support of women’s equality.
Atira, Abbott explains, “[manifests their] mandate primarily through housing: long-term housing, supportive housing, transitional housing, emergency shelters but also non-residential programs like counselling, support groups for children who’ve witnessed violence, legal advocacy, public outreach and more.”
One of their programs, Enterprising Women Making Art (EWMA), provides exploitation-free income-earning opportunities for women in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. And, for the past 12 years, EWMA has received support from the three-night musical event Strong Women Strong Music.
The event donates 100 per cent of its proceeds to EWMA while exposing “Atira and the women’s anti-violence work to an interesting and diverse crowd that might not otherwise explore the violent issues against women,” says Abbott, “and how violence in women and girls affects our community. There’s not a lot of opportunities for women’s music and women’s equality to be showcased.”
This year, Strong Women Strong Music falls right before International Women’s Day. In recent years it expanded from a one-night event with four female singers to feature 18 female vocalists and a few female instrumentalists. Each night features six singers of different styles, ages and experience levels – from the up-and-coming to the lifelong dedicated, including JUNO Award-nominated jazz vocalist Karin Plato.
Plato’s idea to bring more artists into the event is an exciting thing for her. “It’s great for the audience,” she says. “They might come to hear their favourite musician or vocalist but then they get to hear new artists they’ve maybe never heard before.” Plato also helps the Strong Women Strong Music jazz singers “shine collective,” with two collaborative ensemble pieces on stage.
For Plato, the music in the show illuminates the full spectrum of “individual voices and sounds coming together. Jazz standards about love, whimsical songs, own material, pop tunes, blues, funk and soul, R&B, musical theatre, or a mash-up of a few tunes,” she says, are amongst the diverse range of musical talent.
She also encourages the artists to know about Atira’s mission. “Most of us have very lucky lives and, of course, that’s not the case for many women in society,” adds Plato.
Catch Strong Women Strong Music at Frankie’s Jazz Club on March 6-8. Tickets are available at atira.bc.ca, coastaljazz.cafrankie's jazz club