Stephanie Hoey, GAC Experiential Learning Student

All around the world, people gather to celebrate International Women’s Day. This day recognizes and honours the accomplishments women have made, but also brings awareness to the discrimination, challenges and indifferences women face in today’s society.  

This year’s theme was #EmbraceEquity, which focuses on the understanding that everyone has a different starting point in life, and equal opportunities simply aren’t enough. Equity not only refers to fairness but also equal access. Equality can’t be achieved without equitable inclusion for all. 

When I walked over to Market Square, I immediately could see groups of people gathered together. The environment was very welcoming and I felt very comfortable standing around with everyone. 

Cindy McMann, Public Educator for the Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis, coordinated the annual march and gathering on March 8th at Market Square in Guelph. The celebration was just over an hour long with guest speakers, activities, free snacks and even some Zumba at the end. With the International Women’s Day colour being purple, purple ribbons were handed out for those to tie around their arms to symbolize their support.

Members of the Guelph community were encouraged to bring signs and posters, or create their own with the materials provided. There was also the opportunity for women to write what they love about being a woman and placing it inside the box. At the activity table, there were also materials for people to make their own bracelets with fun coloured beads.

The speakers at the event were Cindy McMann (Public Educator for the Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis), Sundes Alammi (President of the Arab Women’s Society of Guelph), Fawzia Khan (Founder of Women That Give), Ashlynn Burr, (runner and Organizer of the Secret 3K Run), and Guelph Councillor Dominique O’Rourke. 

Some examples of topics that were discussed by the speakers included the lack of representation of women in positions of power, gender-based violence and harassment, horrific attacks made on women, girls and trans people, and the women in Afghanistan who aren’t given the freedom to run outside. 

Some positive initiatives that were discussed included the free programs and support that the charity “Women That Give” offers. This charity helps to provide women with the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to succeed mentally, physically and economically. They also help to relieve poverty by providing food, clothing and other basic necessities. Additionally, the mission behind the Secret 3K Run was discussed and it was great to hear that all proceeds made will go towards charities that help support women in Afghanistan. 

Having the opportunity to attend this event was special to me as in the past few years I’ve been busy with school and missed out on chances to participate in the Guelph community. It can be challenging as a student to find the time but since recently starting my placement here at GAC, I learned about the International Women’s day celebration and conveniently it was right outside the office.

As I listened to each speaker present, it sparked a lot of passion within me and it was empowering to be a part of something so meaningful. As much as it was important to be reminded of the injustices women are faced with, it was also nice to know that it’s being talked about and some positive changes are being made. The crowd was full of passionate people that cheered the speakers on and praised them for their contributions to the community and powerful messages. 

After the speakers concluded their talks, Cindy McMann welcomed people to grab some yummy food, hot chocolate and other snacks which were kindly donated for the event.

Volunteers shortly after gathered everyone for the annual march, which was about a 30-minute loop around the downtown area. Once everyone returned, the event ended off with some fun Zumba.

Sponsors of the event included Zonta Club of Guelph, Innovation Guelph, YMCA of Three Rivers, Women That Give, Secret 3K, CFUW Guelph, Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis and the Children’s Foundation of Guelph-Wellington.

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