Lo­cal hu­man rights lawyer em­pow­ers sur­vivors

Midtown Post - - News | Neighbourhood - — Chris Suppa

Paola Gomez’s ca­reer has been a con­ver­gence of hu­man rights law, so­cial jus­tice, cre­ative writ­ing and artis­tic ex­pres­sion. It has cul­mi­nated in her re­cently re­ceiv­ing the Con­stance E. Hamil­ton Award, given to rec­og­nize those who have made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to im­prov­ing the so­cial, eco­nomic and political sta­tus of women in Toronto.

Gomez first came to Canada 12 years ago as a refugee from Colom­bia and set­tled on St. Clair Av­enue West. Her­self a sur­vivor of vi­o­lence, she chan­neled her ex­pe­ri­ences into her work as a hu­man rights lawyer and com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer, be­com­ing an ad­vo­cate for refugees and sur­vivors of sex­ual vi­o­lence.

“I be­lieve that the voices of women need to be heard and val­i­dated and, most im­por­tantly, that sur­vivors need to be em­pow­ered,” Gomez said.

As the co-founder of Sick Muse Art Pro­jects, Gomez has fos­tered com­mu­nity en­gage­ment and in­te­grated dis­cus­sions about iden­tity and in­clu­sion into art pro­grams and writ­ing work­shops. She’s cur­rently work­ing on a project with Syr­ian refugee women, en­cour­ag­ing them to share their sto­ries.

“It’s easy to stereo­type when you don’t know their faces or names, but with a glimpse into other peo­ple’s per­sonal jour­neys, you re­al­ize they may have many el­e­ments sim­i­lar to your own,” she said.

Paola Gomez

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