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Trent a Partner in Project to Develop New Images of Women with Physical Differences
January 1, 2007

Trent University a Lead Partner in Project to Develop New Images of Women with Disabilities and Physical Differences

YWCA Peterborough Working with Women’s Studies Professor, YWCA Sudbury, Women’s College Hospital, and Springtide Resources on Innovative New Project

Women with disabilities and physical differences are embarking on a venture to transform their public image, thanks to a new arts-based project entitled "Envisioning New Meanings of Difference and Disability", involving Dr. Carla Rice, an associate professor in the Women’s Studies department at Trent University.

Since joining forces with the YWCA of Peterborough, Victoria and Haliburton in 2004 to conduct workshops on female body image, Prof. Rice has been working with the local charitable organization to create a larger, province-wide art project. Recently, this project, which uses innovative arts-based interventions of photography, digital storytelling, and drama to generate positive health promoting and capacity building conditions for women living with disabilities and physical differences, received a significant financial boost from the Ontario Trillium Foundation who contributed over $230,000 to its development.

"In creating opportunities for women to envision new meanings of difference, this project has the power to affect personal, interpersonal, and social change," Prof. Rice said. "We are pleased that Trillium has shown us so much support. We were honoured to receive the funding as this round of proposals was extremely competitive."

This new project aims to address issues of social exclusion through creating affirming imagery intended to improve women’s lives. Through arts interventions initiated by women themselves, the project seeks to engage health and social service providers, the media, and the broader public in re-visioning meanings of difference interwoven across cultural images and interactions.

"There are many misconceptions and few positive portrayals of women with disabilities and physical differences in our culture, so this is a much-needed project," says Lorna Renooy, who brings 20 years of experience working on issues related to disability and physical difference to her role as project manager. "I am excited by this project’s potential to demonstrate and popularize a different view of difference."

The artwork created by the women in this project will be assembled into an art show that will circulate throughout the province. Another outcome will be province-wide performances dramatizing the experiences of women with disabilities and physical differences. There will also be a public relations campaign resulting from this project and Harbinger Communications, the same company that produced the Dove "Campaign for Real Beauty", will provide consultation on an in-kind basis. The total budget for this project is estimated at $600,000.

Led by the YWCA of Peterborough, Victoria and Haliburton, other partners in the "Envisioning New Meanings of Difference and Disability" project include the Sudbury YWCA and Toronto-based organizations Women’s College Hospital and Springtide Resources (formerly Education Wife Assault). In regards to Trent University’s role, Prof. Rice will be leading the evaluation and research aspects of the project.

"Women with disabilities have a lot to teach us. We want this project to make a measurable difference in public perceptions about women with physical differences," says Lynn Zimmer, executive director of the YWCA of Peterborough, Victoria and Haliburton. "Having Prof. Rice involved from Trent will significantly enhance the research component of this project."

"The types of activities involving arts-based interventions that we will be using in this project have never been evaluated so it will be my job to ensure that the research methodologies for this groundbreaking project are academically sound," Prof. Rice explained.

In addition to her role at Trent, Prof. Rice is a world-renowned consultant on women's body image issues. She has over 20 years experience as a clinician, project director, researcher, and media consultant on body image and eating problems. She was a consultant on the Dove "Campaign for Real Beauty" and has been involved in women’s issues in the community for years. In 1993 she founded the Body Image Project at Women's College Hospital, creating a unique therapeutic approach for women with eating disorders and body image concerns. She is also the former project director of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre and national organizer of Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

One of Canada’s top universities, Trent University is renowned for striking a unique balance between outstanding teaching and leading edge research. The University is consistently recognized nationally for faculty who maintain a high level of innovative research activity and a deep commitment to the individual student. Distinguished by excellence in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences and increasingly popular professional and graduate programs, Trent is dedicated to providing its students with an exceptional world view, producing graduates who are ready to succeed and make a difference in the world. Trent’s Peterborough campus boasts award-winning architecture in a breathtaking natural setting on the banks of the Otonabee River. Together with its satellite campus in Oshawa, Trent draws excellent students from throughout the country and around the world.

For more information, please contact:

Prof. Carla Rice, Trent University
(705) 748-1011 x5214 or (416) 654-1272, carlarice@trentu.ca;

Lynn Zimmer, Executive Director, YWCA Peterborough
(705) 743-3526, lynnzimmer@YWCApeterborough.org; or

Lorna Renooy, Project Manager, Envisioning New Meanings of Disability and Difference
(416) 968-3422 x 25.



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