Do you want to be inspired by some local speakers, support local artists, and support a good cause while celebrating the amazing, diverse community of women in Waterloo Region? You can do all of that on Thursday, March 8 at Woman2018. Late last month I sat down with co-organizer Laura Morrison to talk about the event. The proceeds from the event are going towards the Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre, a 24/7 on call team of nurses and social workers who respond to the needs of individuals who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence.
Laura is a graduate student at the University of Waterloo researching gender-based violence, as well as an advocate for women's rights on both local and international platforms. She has done work with local organizations such as The Working Centre, as well as international charitable organizations like The Salvation Army and Right To Play. Most recently, Laura consulted for UN Women on gender-based violence initiatives. She has been passionate about social issues and community based initiatives from a young age.
The idea for Woman 2018 started brewing back in November 2017. In her research she found that aside from a university event for faculty and staff, there weren't a lot of local activities planned for International Women's Day. She wasn't expecting there to be so much interest in the event, and even though she was feeling a little overwhelmed, she was pleased by the response. She's made every effort possible to have diverse representation in the artists and speakers. Starting first with her own network, she invited three feminist artists that she knew from university. Shayla Giroux is print and painting based, Kaylee Lock-O'Connor makes art installations, and Faith Ashford makes large wall pieces, with simple lines. She picked people that she knew would bring different things to the show and people that would really dedicate their time because they were not only interested in being featured, but are also very into gender equity issues and are passionate feminists themselves.
The speakers are:
Jenn Hind, a Reverend at Emmanuel United Church in Uptown Waterloo. The United Church was recently vandalized and the loving way in which Reverend Hind responded left an impression on Laura. Reverend Hind’s talk will be drawing upon experiences as an openly gay female pastor in a traditionally male-only occupation.
Rahmah Omar from the Coalition of Muslim Women in KW, speaking on the experience of Muslim women in leadership and what women's celebration means to them.
Lori Campbell, Director of the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre. Aboriginal woman are the most discriminated against in Canada in terms of women's issues, so Laura wanted to include them in this event in whatever way they were comfortable. Lori provided guidance to help make sure the event was conducted in a respectful way.
Laura would love to expand the event to be a yearly thing because she thinks it's really important to take time to celebrate women, something she loves to do. When asked what she wants people to take away from the event, she said " I think most of all I want people to have an appreciation for the really strong, amazing, diverse network of women that are in our region. I think it's easy to look out to other spheres and see amazing women portrayed in the media but sometimes it's harder to see closer to home how amazing all of the women are in this community. So, just taking some time to highlight not only the women who are speakers, but the women who attend and the contributions that all women make to the community in which we live is sort of our main takeaway."
I asked for suggestions for taking the ideas from this event beyond just the one day. She said that not everyone needs to dedicate themselves to full time advocacy in a formal way but if everyone got involved to a degree that they're comfortable with doing something, it would make such an enormous impact. There's ways that we as a community could be a little more cohesive and a little bit more engaged with problems. She would like to see better community development in general and for people to recognize all of the different ways that not only we can contribute to change, but the ways that we currently are contributing to negative social systems. Checking our own behaviour and recognizing the ways that we currently impact things is really important.
Woman 2018 is always interested in more sponsors if companies are interested. The event does have enough sponsors at this point to be able to run the event and have a sizeable donation to the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre, but there's always room for more people in terms of the impact they can have for that program. There is still space for volunteers to help with event set up and to help things run smoothly. Contact Laura if you'd like to help.
70 tickets are being sold. At the time of the interview, 25-30 tickets had been sold, and as of January 30th, 50% of our tickets were sold. Get yours soon to make sure you can be a part of this celebration.
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Interview by Glodeane Brown
Photo and logo provided by Laura Morrison