Chantel Henderson found her way home twice as a missing teen.
She walked in the 2014 International Womens' Day march on Saturday for all the girls and women who never did.
About 200 people of all ages participated in the 103rd IWD March from Portage Place mall to the Union Centre, an event for "self-identified women, girls and their allies."
"I'm all about empowering others to realize their dreams, their potential, their talent," said Henderson, 32, the mother of a 17-year-old daughter. "Everyone needs to do their part to take care of their sisters, their aunties, their friends, everyone. It's a community thing,"
Henderson's tumultuous teen years included at least two traumatic events she carries with her. Twice, she was taken and sexually assaulted by people she thought she could trust. Both times she was held against her will inside a dwelling and feared she wouldn't make it out alive. The first time, she was missing for about a week. Henderson was just 16 when she met "the wrong guy," who kept her captive in a house and threatened her with violence if she tried to escape.
"I had a two-year-old daughter at the time, I was breastfeeding and I didn't know if he was ever going to let me go or do something more sinister," she said, adding she was made to feel like "a piece of meat" and "less than human."
"My mom put up the missing-persons photos. She went through a lot of grief not knowing if she was going to see me again. I managed to convince him to let me go. I promised not to tell anyone, and I never did," she said. The man was never charged, but Henderson said she heard trouble followed him in his life. "I believe karma finds those people if truth and justice don't."
She said women, especially aboriginals, continue to be at risk of family violence, social isolation, addictions and abuse.
"We need to start showing our aboriginal women there are strong women out there that are doing things, and that's what I'm all about, getting my BA at the University of Winnipeg," she said. "I like the diversity (at the march). We all share a connection, we're all women, we know what it's like to be treated as unequal. It's very supportive."
Kim Morrisseau brought her six-year-old daughter, Awa Ka, to listen to the speeches and participate in the march.
"I saw it on Facebook and I thought it was really good to start exposing her early to the movement and the strength and power of women," Morrisseau said.
Onlookers and participants were told the march was held to celebrate victories in equity and social justice for women, but also to reflect on ways to find paths to change in areas of exploitation, violence and inequities faced by girls and women around the world.
In the crowd, advocates for women from varying cultural backgrounds and other countries carried posters and photos while an aboriginal drummer led the procession.
Just before the march began, a poignant address was given by elder Levinia Brown referring to the more than 800 missing or murdered aboriginal women in Canada.
"Sometimes it's difficult living in this world when we see so many missing and murdered women. It's hard because they're being missed by their children, by their families," Brown said, her voice cracking with emotion. "My prayer today is to each and every one of you, especially for the women of the world and the children."