Honouring the Women of our Time and Embracing Diversity

“Unless all of are free, none of us will be free.”
“Until all of us have made it, none of us have made it.”
– Rosemary Brown, Political Activist

It is important to recognize and commend the women who have worked so hard to fight for the equality of all people. International Women’s Day has given us a chance to do just that.  Our theme this year was “Inspiring Change”, and guests learned of the history of the women’s movement in Canada, progress that has been made, and improvements we have yet to make.  Beginning in 1917, the year that women in British Columbia had the right to vote, to 2000, when the first woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada was appointed, women have made great strides in our quest for equality.  However, the struggle continues and we must fight alongside the memory of our sisters to ensure we pave the way for the women of the next generation.

“We must open the doors and we must see to it that they remain open so that others can pass through.”
– Rosemary Brown, Political Activist            

As immigrant and refugee women of Canada, we are particularly indebted to Rosemary Brown, an influential political figure who was active mainly in the 1970’s.  Brown forced the BC provincial government to examine, revise and eliminate existing policies or regulations identified as sexist and/or racist.  She was also the driving force behind the establishment of government shelters and rape relief centres for abused women. This marked the early stages of the government’s acknowledgement of women’s issues. It led to Canada signing the United Nations Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1981, and enshrining gender equality in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.

Though women’s rights are slowly being recognized on a global front, many women are still fighting for equality, and need our help and support.  As Canadian women, we must recognize the injustices facing First Nation’s women, and to women around the world under the guise of cultural practices.  These women are only as strong as the women who are advocating for them. There are a number of ways that we can help.  We may think we do not have enough in common to understand the suffering, culture, and past and others; however, we have more in common than we realize.

The first step is to recognize our diversity, and how this can bring us together.  Lindsay set a great example of this with her interactive workshop at the most recent table session. Through a simple game of Diversity Bingo, participants learned more about each other’s interests and past experiences than many people learn after weeks of meeting.  We bonded through our similarities and respectfully listened and also learned about differing interests each woman brought to the table.

These networking opportunities allow us to turn diversity into inclusion. These conversations create safe spaces where we can openly share our stories and acknowledge the dimensions of diversity is the driving concept of the Safe Harbour program run by AMSSA.  Understanding diversity means having respect for all cultures, abilities, sexual orientations, genders, faiths and beliefs, ages, genders and other categories of potential discrimination. With this knowledge, we can make diversity and equality a reality.

So how can we help this cause? Petitions can be made for a national inquiry into the status of the treatment of women, abused women, and missing women in Canada.  Numbers can show a groups’ strength, and this is proven by the several hundred men and women who march every year on February 14th to show their support to friends and family of missing Aboriginal women in Vancouver. Anyone can join and more information can be found here: http://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com/.  We can also donate or fundraise for causes that educate political leaders and the public on the living conditions of women around the world. This type of action can raise awareness and implement action plans to eliminate violence against women.  There are of course many more options for us to help.

While the circumstances of women, immigrants, and refugees have greatly improved in Canada, this is an ongoing journey that we must endure together.  We encourage you to get involved, as there is no effort too small to be recognized in serving the greater purpose of equality and social inclusion for all.

“[There are} lots of challenges to take on and continue to fight for in the days to come. We cannot walk away and think that others will do it on our behalf.  It is a social change we must fight for, at home and in local communities and around the globe, working together, both men and women in the struggle for equality and justice. Inspiring change and celebrating victories are the strategies, which will take us there.”
–       Patsy George, Women’s Rights Activist in British Columbia. She was pivotal to the beginnings of the Pacific Immigrant Resource Society and the women’s movement in British Columbia.

A great thank you to those who attended the International Women’s Day event co-hosted by Pacific Immigrant Resources Society and the University Women’s Club. The March 8th, event was a great success, thanks to all those who organized the event, and our gracious and remarkable guest speakers.  We also hosted an April networking table session at our new venue, the Oakridge Seniors Centre, on April 3rd, 2014 and were honoured to have guest speaker Lindsay Marsh from AMSSA (Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Services Agencies of BC). Lindsay acts as the Safe Harbour Coordinator at AMSSA and shared with us the benefits and the difficulties that exist in recognizing and implementing diversity in the workplace, school systems, and public spaces.

We hope you are able to join us for our next session at our new permanent venue:

Oakridge Seniors Centre
#513-650 West 41st Avenue, Vancouver
5:30 – 7:30 PM
Date and theme TBA

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