Starting back in March 2013, the Laidlaw Foundation granted funds to the I do! Project to create an eye opening and informative online public service announcement. The I do! Project set out to shed light on the unspoken issues and incidents of forced marriage that have taken place right here in Toronto, through collaborations with spoken word artists and forced marriage survivors. The collaborations consisted of pairing three spoken word artists with three forced marriage survivors. As a result, three heartfelt spoken word pieces, telling the true life stories of three courageous women and their overcoming f0rced marriages, materialized.
This piece written and performed by Chantelle Walters, was used in the filmed PSA, and is an actual account of forced marriage from a real life survivor living in Toronto. The back story and inspiration for Chantelle’s piece is of a young girl pressured by her mother, who wanted to vicariously live through her daughter, forced her to forego her youth and become a wife. The young girl struggled with feelings of wanting to please her mother but also of longing to be a normal adolescent and experience the beginnings of womanhood. Instead, she was thrust into an empty marriage. The young girl suffered in isolation, and was unable to to reach out to her mother for love and support. Eventually her husband ends up leaving her and she returns home to be embraced by her mother, but the reunion is bittersweet. Currently, this young woman is completing her studies at a Toronto university, is budding artist and an advocate for empowering young women.
7 Days Pt.1 | Pt.2 | Pt. 3 – By Lishai Peel
This piece written and performed by Lishai Peel brilliantly tells the account of a woman who has been forced into marriage twice. The woman’s first marriage took place in her youth in India, where her family forced her to marry, feeling that she was getting to old to not be wed. She remained married in Indian for a few years, had a child, and then migrated to Canada. Shortly after arriving in Canada, the marriage ended due to extreme physical and sexual abuse. Her second marriage, again receiving pressure from her family, was arranged to a man living in Indian. After he arrived and they had been married, he also became very abusive. The marriage ended when her abuser abandoned her with three children. Today she is a social worker who often handles domestic violence cases and is a strong advocate for ending forced marriage and violence against women.
This piece written and performed by Shirley Gillett tells the story of a young woman born in Canada and raised in a strict Christian religious sect, forced to marry an older man who is a prominent member in the church she once belonged to. After her engagement, she was taken abroad and cut off from her family. Shortly after the engagement she became very ill and her fiance, seeing her as a burden, ended the engagement and left her in a foreign country with no means to support herself. She has since come back to Canada, reunited with her family and is now fighting the religious sect by exposing their questionable practises.
The PSA also involved collaboration with a young videographer Ernesto Lemus, who graciously offered his outstanding talent, time, and commitment to the filming and editing of this PSA. His vision and passion brought great energy to the project and the I do! Project and FMP are extremely thankful for his invaluable contribution.