For years Devaki Muneeswararajah and Vasuki Jeyendran had the desire to create initiatives that would empower women and help them develop a positive sense of self-identity. While they pursued opportunities in their personal and professional lives which allowed them to contribute to such efforts in isolation, they couldn’t quite kick the idea that there was more work to be done.
So they officially registered their not-for-profit, Loving Mothers, to operate as an umbrella organization for initiatives that support Tamil women, across generations, experiences and levels of ability.
Given the socially constructed, and normalized, roles for women as nurturers, homemakers and caregivers there has been no shortage of women that Devaki and Vasuki have encountered who live solitary lives, despite being surrounded by family, friends and co-workers. In the best case scenarios, they lacked a sense of self-identity and development of their social and cultural potential to be contributing members of society.
And in the worst case scenarios, the were afflicted by depression, consumed by family conflicts or placed in extraordinary personal situations while being discouraged from speaking out or seeking help because of social pressures and shaming.
Loving Mothers is committed to creating spaces for women to empower themselves and combat stigma wherever it may arise in their lives.
Their activities focus on increasing self-awareness and dialogue amongst women, empowering them to develop their social and cultural potential, promoting their unique talents and creating opportunities to connect and network for everything from personal to professional support.
Their activities include introductory classes to learn various skill sets (e.g. art classes, yoga, computer literacy), highlighting and promoting members' talents, encouraging volunteerism through monthly days of service, partnering with other organizations to create impact and creating networking opportunities.
Loving Mothers will be hosting an afternoon of powerful dialogue this upcoming Sunday, March 20, called Taboo Talks and Wellness featuring talks by innovative health professionals and discussions about mental health, familial conflicts, abuse and divorce. Referrals and introductions to support services and resources will be available as well.
Due to the stigma associated with these topics there is much shame associated with speaking out and many suffer in silence. Loving Mothers is hoping to break taboos and help give women a fresh start.
Nayani Thiyagarajah is a director, producer, and writer. Nayani's first feature documentary "Shadeism: Digging Deeper" (2015) had its World Premiere at the 2015 Zanzibar International Film Festival. Nayani is currently producing, writing, and directing multiple independent film projects. She is an alumni of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Workshop for Diverse Creators, the HotDocs Doc Accelerator Program and the Remix Project. Nayani is also a Co-Founder at Refuge Productions and the Society of DirectHERS and ProduceHERS and works as a full-circle doula and hatha yoga teacher.
Tharshiga Elankeeran is a Registered Psychotherapist that completed her Bachelors in Psychology with specialized honours from York University (Toronto, ON 2009) and Masters in Counselling Psychology from McGill University (Montreal, QC 2013). Working at Addiction Services for York Region as a substance use counsellor for women striving to heal from their trauma, she has also facilitated trauma groups with survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the York Region Abuse Program and is currently assisting a trauma group at Black Creek Community Health Center.
Jenny Starke M.S.W., R.S.W. completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at York University (Toronto, ON 2009) and her Masters in Social at the University of Toronto (Toronto, ON 2012). She is a Registered Social Worker with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. She is a Geriatric Social Worker at Humber River Hospital and a Peer Group Facilitator for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse at The Gatehouse. With A.N.B.U., she hopes to create a voice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and shed light, build capacity, strengthen awareness and compassion within the Tamil community and across many communities.
Dr. Amudhinie Thanendran is a family physician who is practicing at Comprehensive Healthcare Network (CHN). She completed her undergraduate degree in Honors Bachelor of Health Sciences at McMaster University and obtained her medical degree at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University. She completed her family medicine residency at the University of Toronto, at Sunnybrook Hospital. In addition to her clinical practice, she is interested in educating the general public about health issues in order to promote awareness and open discourse regarding health concerns, hoping to enhance their health and well-being.
Rukshan Para is a Banking Consultant whose aspiration is to help communities access education services. He has developed strong partnerships with different organizations encouraging improvement of quality within the school system that reflect the needs of today’s children. Rukshan has led many campaigns and projects relating to youth and educational empowerment within Markham. Apart from Rukshan's love of helping students and his community, he has a background in Information Technology and Finance and is an active member of various not-for-profit organizations within Markham and York Region.