International Women’s Day honoured across the Peninsula

By Charlotte Harrison

Linda Wills of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign with C.P. Allen students Cora Leigh MacDonald and Emily Neil at the Woven Together event (Charlotte Harrison photo).

Organizations gathered across the Peninsula to honour the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day through events ranging from film screenings to dance lessons.

Tuesday morning, the International Women’s Forum Atlantic chapter hosted a breakfast at Casino Nova Scotia. Ann Mackenzie, chair of the organization, said she was glad to have the opportunity to celebrate women’s accomplishments.

“We realize that there are still challenges for women, but we want to celebrate our successes,” she said.

Mackenzie said that women are still a minority in upper-management positions in the private sector, mainly due to difficulties networking.  The International Women’s Forum connects successful women to up-and-coming businesswomen to help them move forward in their careers.

“You can’t tell me there aren’t talented women out there. They just don’t have the networks in place,” she said. “We want to help advance each other and increase equality for women.”

Saint Mary’s University hosted Woven Together, an event featuring African Threads, the Maritime Center for African Dance, and the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.

“Although it’s a celebration, the fight is far from over.”
-Valerie Hearder

The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign raises money and awareness for African grandmothers caring for their orphan grandchildren due to AIDS-related deaths, with 240 groups across Canada. Linda Wills, the Grandmother liaison for the Atlantic region, said the anniversary is particularly significant for this older group of activists.

“A lot of the older women around here have been part of the women’s movement in one fashion or another for decades. Today is just like ‘YES! We made it!'”

Wills was also pleased to see young women at the event. “Seeing young faces in the room gives me courage,” she said. “You’re picking up the torch when we move on.”

Valerie Hearder, owner of African Threads, gave a presentation about her organization that sells textile art made by South African women.

Hearder said women’s rights are still a major issue in many African countries.

“International Women’s Day is an opportunity to examine how we can help the millions of women who face unemployment, poverty, violence, polygamy and sickness,” she said. “Although it’s a celebration, the fight is far from over.”

Mufaro Chakabuda, an African dance instructor with the Maritime Centre for African Dance, concluded the day’s festivities by performing a dance to celebrate womanhood.

Mufaro Chakabuda teaches the audience of Woven Together an African dance to celebrate women

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4ZrohMGCQM

That evening, the Dalhousie Women’s Centre hosted a film screening of Women Without Men and a round-table discussion about women’s issues.

Ashley Alberg, leader of the Gender and Women’s Studies society at Dalhousie, said International Women’s Day is a chance to “recognize that women have had to fight for rights, and continue to have to fight for rights.”

The event also encourages solidarity, Alberg said. “I can’t think of any culture where women are completely respected and treated as equals.”

Shirley Tillotson, coordinator of the Dalhousie Gender and Women’s Studies Programme, said that Canadian women still face social inequality. Tillotson said that it’s important to use International Women’s Day as an opportunity to evaluate women’s status in society.

“There are still a lot of differences between the normal pay of working class women’s jobs and working class men’s jobs,” she said.

External links
NS Advisory Council on the Status of Women
International Women’s Forum Website
Grandmothers to Grandmothers website
African Threads website
Maritime Centre for African Dance