By: Holly Janzen
Women’s leadership is central to achieving and maintaining peace, and in turn, security. Despite this, women continue to be excluded from both formal and informal decision making spaces, which leaves many women with limited resources to work with in moving towards the peaceful and just societies and communities that they envision. While strides have been made in recognizing and advancing the role that women play as active agents in the international peace and security sector, progress has slowed in recent years (UN Women, 2021). This gives even more reason to bring light to this topic.
For International Development Week 2022, BCCIC will bring into discussion a variety of experiences and perspectives on Women’s Leadership, Peace and Security from around the world and in Canada – including through our kickoff roundtable event, which you can register for here. Through these discussions there will be various opportunities to learn about both traditional and nontraditional ways in which women are leading the way to peace and security. Movements towards peace exist in many different forms, and often, they intersect with other social justice movements. During International Development Week, BCCIC will be highlighting multiple incredible women who are leading the way to peace and security in unique ways and breaking down barriers in doing so.
One woman who is leading the way to peace and justice here in British Columbia (BC) is Trixie Ling, the Founder and Executive Director of Flavours of Hope. Flavours of Hope is a non-profit social enterprise, and their vision is to see a “society where refugee newcomer women flourish and experience belonging in the community through cooking, storytelling, and entrepreneurship.” Through cooking and shared meals, Flavours of Hope creates a space where newcomer refugee women are able to nourish their communities and share their own stories of resilience. Many of the stories that are shared honour refugee women who have “risen above their adversity and trauma, with a lot of strength, courage, perseverance and ultimately hope.” At Flavours of Hope, they value the unique stories and lived experiences that each person has and believe in the strength that these stories have in empowering women to lead in their communities.
Flavours of Hope is an organization worth highlighting in connection to the theme of Women’s Leadership, Peace and Security because of the transformative approach they take to leadership, community building, and peace. Trixie explains that leadership is about “creating the strength to be able to share your own story and the strength to make space for other women” to share their stories as well. That leadership is sustained by lived experience and the courage to share and “relate to other women and support them in their needs.” Flavours of Hope has created a platform for women who may not often be given opportunities to share their stories and in doing so, are able to inspire others to do the same. In this way Flavours of Hope encourages and fosters leadership that opens the door to women from all walks of life, and creates space for them to relate to one another, to collaborate, and to lift each other up through the medium of cooking and shared meals. Flavours of Hope is an inspiring example of how grassroots organizations and movements can affect positive change towards peace and security in communities around the world.
The power of food is central to the work that is done at Flavours of Hope. Trixie explains how she views food as an equalizer: “we all need to be fed, we all need to eat, because we’re all human.” When food events are held, everyone eats around the table. People’s socioeconomic status doesn’t matter when everyone is sharing the same meal. “I think about a circle, a table that we sit around, it really is an equalizing power as we bring people together from different backgrounds, different languages, different status” and we all eat together. Often in the charitable sector, newcomer refugee women are the ones who are receiving things from people. It is through the act of cooking and feeding their communities that the power dynamic is turned around, and the women who may often be on the receiving end are the ones that are giving. “Ultimately, a lot of our work is rooted in reciprocity,” which is about giving and receiving. Everyone eating around the table together really sets the space for dialogue and building relationships. This is a way of extending peace while sometimes having difficult dialogues. The role of food here is maintaining that sense of peace.
With that being said, there is a lot of injustice in the food system. It’s important to consider all of the issues around food insecurity and food inequity, especially between different groups of people. In Canada, we can bring our attention to racialized groups and Indigenous groups who do not have equal access to food. Cultural appropriation is another important aspect to consider when thinking about the intersection of race and food. Trixie goes on to explain that “if we don’t think deeper, we don’t see some of these issues.”
Food is political because “it’s within a system that is steeped in racism and colonization,” so advocating for food sovereignty is one way that people can resist and reclaim their identity, culture, and traditions. People can also fight against injustice by recognizing that food is connected to the land and by working in solidarity with Indigenous people to get land back and decolonize food systems. Using food as a method of decolonization is a powerful way to create dialogue and educate people on Canada’s history of colonization and how it has shaped the oppressive systems that continue to function today.
Looking at the good work that is done at Flavour’s of Hope through an international lens, it becomes clear that their work is important on a global scale. They are actively working to decolonize the way they work with food and run as an organization. Food insecurity is felt by communities around the globe, especially in times of conflict. While the work done at Flavour’s of Hope is local in scale, it can be tied to international movements towards peace in a variety of ways. Building community and working towards food justice by interacting with food in decolonizing ways is how the women at Flavour’s of Hope aspire for peace. Everyone has the right to nutritious and accessible food, and this is true everywhere. Trixie notes that we often tend to “disconnect the global issue to what’s happening locally.” Think about your neighbours. “Share some food, share a drink, and listen to [their] story because that’s how we hear, not just what’s in the media and the news,” but what’s happening in the lives of those around us. Peace is not “just the absence of conflict, it’s the presence of justice.” By investing in our communities, embracing diversity and learning from those around us, peace has the potential to be achieved.
If you are wondering how you can support Flavours of Hope, you can do so by donating and subscribing to their newsletter. Also, learn about their food business program Dream Cuisines, where newcomer women can gain access to mentorship and kitchen space as they work to build their food business’.
To learn more about the ways in which women are leading the way in the pursuit of peace and security, we invite you to attend our upcoming roundtable discussion.