It takes courage for any woman to leave an abusive relationship, and that was the strength that Shawana Rae channeled on the steps of St. Thomas Aquinas High School last week, as she performed a traditional drum song in honour of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

“That takes courage and that’s the theme of this, it takes courage for survivors and the community to speak out about domestic violence and violence against women. For her to do that sets such an example and shows real leadership,” said Kendall Trembath, Executive Director of Women’s Shelter Saakate House, who was on hand for the performance.

Rae performed her song outside of the school’s entrance while standing in front of a purple banner that read “End Gender-based Violence”, surrounded by her female classmates.

“I sang a song that supports women. It was standing up for women and it supports all the women out there who are feeling down. Today is a very special day and I had a perfect song for it,” she said.

Rae explained how she felt performing in front of her peers.

“It was nerve-racking but when you’re singing you calm down. I started singing and then I stopped shaking and I was actually enjoying it and I wasn’t nervous,” she said.

During the month of November, Saakate House has encouraged many businesses and the City of Kenora to decorate in purple or trade their traditional white lights for purple ones in honour of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

“It’s the month we come out of our little corner of the world as a shelter,” said Trembath. “We know it’s a private matter for some families, but domestic violence can’t be private. It needs to be a community issue because it takes a community to end violence against women.”

At St. Thomas Aquinas High School, students and staff were encouraged to wear purple or a ribbon skirt. They also presented an art piece to Trembath and the programs manager at the shelter, Chrysti Savage, that included an uplifting message of hope surrounding a purple tissue paper heart.

Art Donation Photo provided by Saint Thomas Aquinas High School.