Selecting our first 'A2J Hero' was no easy task. Despite the complexities of the justice system and the many barriers to access it, there are numerous trailblazers across the province who are stepping up to the challenge and creating strategies for change.
Martha Paynter did just that when she founded Women's Wellness Within, a local non-for-profit organization that provides support and services for women and trans individuals who are experiencing criminalization and pregnant or mothering. Paynter, a Registered Nurse and Phd candidate at Dalhousie University, heard the story of a woman imprisoned at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre who had delivered her baby on the floor of a segregation cell after her cries for help were ignored by staff. Julie Bilotta's son Gionni was delivered breach in that prison cell, and then separated from his mother not long after his birth. He died just after his first birthday from undetermined causes.
This tragic injustice sparked Paynter to respond to the significant gaps in services for women who are pregnant or mothering in prisons. Her grassroots organization provides support to women throughout pregnancy, abortion, childbirth, breastfeeding, infant feeding and the newborn period. Their work is done entirely by like minded women and volunteers who share her passion and vision for change. In addition to helping women and trans individuals directly, Paynter speaks at conferences, training's and events as an advocate for the decarceration of women and mothers, access to housing, income, resources and health care.
For more information and to follow what they are doing, visit their website at https://www.womenswellnesswithin.org/. They can also be found on Social Media.
Congratulations to everyone involved in this work--for fighting for justice and creating opportunity and access for criminalized, marginalized and institutionalized women and mothers across the province.