EmpowerHER opens conversations of female safety in Kamloops

TRU student and Australian scholar bring together social justice and public art to engage dialogue

Scholar Marnie Badham and TRU student Emily Dundas Oke collaborated on EmpowerHER. (Cailyn Mocci/The Omega)

TRU student Emily Dundas Oke and visiting scholar Marnie Badham are taking on Kamloops’ women’s safety with a creative look at shared experiences by mapping the city. EmpowerHER invites the women of Kamloops and T’Kemlups to make their perceptions of safety, memory, beauty and other attachments to place visible.

EmpowerHER is the work of Oke and Badham. The duo is partnered with TRU and United Way.

Badham spends most of her time teaching and studying public places, community development and contemporary art. She also has a long history working with art in the respects of social justice and working with underserved and underrepresented communities.

“This project is a part storytelling project, part urban planning and part visual art,” Badham said.

EmpowerHER is tasked with opening dialogue with the women of Kamloops, revolving around asking these women to reflect on three questions: Where do you feel safe? Where do you feel unsafe? Where do you see beauty?

“EmpowerHER is helping to visualize women’s perceptions and experiences in Kamloops,” Dundas Oke said. “The project is helpful in fostering dialogue about how we experience the city.”

The visual aspect of this project helps open up the conversations of safety with Kamloops’ resource providers and aids in creating a safer environment for women, especially those who are more likely to be in need of services such as shelters.

“By doing creative projects, people feel more comfortable sharing their experiences,” Badham said. “This project really focuses on the lived experiences of women.”

Badham estimated that about 500 women have participated in the project.

EmpowerHER is meant to act as a knowledge-sharing and experience-sharing project with the hopes of creating functional resources for the city. Badham describes the project as “socially-engaged art”.

“It’s always about pulling out salient issues, but at the same time it has some sort of usefulness for the community you’re trying to serve,” Badham said.

As for the future of EmpowerHER, both Dundas Oke and Badham are invested in compiling their data and presenting their findings to those resource leaders in the city in hopes of creating safer environments throughout Kamloops.

The two have envisioned a public art display of their findings on the side of the United Way in Downtown Kamloops and also possibly on campus at TRU.

For more information on EmpowerHER or where to get involved check out the project’s website at unitedwaytnc.ca/map.