BY WENDY CZAKO-MAH
Since 1909, the International Women’s Day movement has promoted women’s rights, giving women around the world a voice while educating them and teaching them the skills to run a business.
On Friday, March 8, numerous events were held around the college. Along with the Respect campaign in the Rotunda, the Sanctuary hosted special guest speaker Ariane Ryan, from the Mennonite Economic Development Associates, who spoke about the history of International Women’s Day.
According to their website, MEDA is an international development association that creates sustainable business solutions to poverty and spurs community economic growth for millions.
Around the world, in 2011, events took place in over 100 countries including the United States. President Barack Obama proclaimed March to be Women’s History Month and in 2012, the UN’s theme was Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty. This year’s theme is A Promise is a Promise: Time for action to end violence against women.
The college’s focus this year was more global in nature. According to Amanda Lyster, Student Life special projects intern, Canadians in general are very fortunate and, as a population, we have come a long way. Therefore, the college felt a more global focus was important. Guest speaker Ariane Ryan talked about her work overseas in countries such as Haiti and Pakistan, where she empowers women to make their own income. Wages, considered very small by our standards, actually earns them a great deal of respect from their husbands and other male family members.
“I’m excited each time I see women we work with globally – particularly women who find themselves in oppressive situations, such as homebound women in Pakistan – overcome some of their challenges through their increased participation in economic activity,” said Ryan. “There is nothing better than hearing that a woman’s husband in a small village in Punjab now has more respect for her because of the new work she is able to do.”
Human trafficking, not something Canadians can relate to, was also discussed. Ryan, through her stories, was able to put a face on the wrongdoings still going on around the world.
Lyster said, “Before today I had an awareness, but I had never done any personal research on my own. But after today (referring to March 8), it definitely opens your eyes.”
The event took students out of their everyday bubble and gave them another outlook, letting them know they are part of a bigger picture.
With a packed room, Lyster was impressed with the crowd as they remained focused from start to finish and were captivated by the stories Ryan shared.
Holly Featherstone, a Respect leader with Student Life, believes that with the theme of A Promise is a Promise and domestic violence being a terrible reality that does not discriminate, it is important that we educate and keep the public aware of the ongoing problems in many communities everywhere, not just locally.