Every year on March 8th the world celebrates the strengths, perils and journey of womanhood. In some countries, it honours the social, economic and political advancements of women and in others, it may be a protest, a radical call to action.
International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s, with the earliest reported version being called Women’s Day in 1908 New York City. Since then, it has taken on many different forms all over the world, focusing on issues impacting the local population of women until the United Nations adopted it in 1977, making it a mainstream, global holiday. The global theme chosen for this year was: ‘Embracing Equity’ and in St. Jamestown, we expanded that to ‘Embracing Equity Through Innovation’.
International Women’s Day this year was hosted at the Central Neighbourhood House on March 8th, attended by 150 residents. It started with two MCs, myself, Taty, representing both Sherbourne Health and The Neighbourhood Organization at The Corner and Hale N., The Trans Power program coordinator from ASAAP (Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention). The event was opened with a land acknowledgment and then went into an energetic Zumba session led by TNO’s Marcell Almonte Reynoso. She got everyone in the room to stand up and move their body for 10 minutes of fun and invigorating dance! It brought lots of laughs, smiles and cheers to the room, giving the event a perfect and lively start! Following the group Zumba, four amazing panelists and a moderator discussed their lived experiences and advice for the future.
First on the panel is Ashima Chopra, who founded Ashima Awakening as well as Obsidian Theatre Company and hER VOLUTION. She spoke passionately about the importance of women in STEAM (science, tech, engineering, arts and math) and the intersectionality of her identities. Maria Clara De Sena was our second panelist and Canada’s first openly trans refugee from Brazil. She’s an activist, world-renowned 2SLGBTQ+ advocate and documentary maker. Maria Clara spoke beautifully about the importance of environmental sustainability and the visibility of queer and trans folks. And last but certainly not least, the final panelist that graced our stage was Urbi Khan. Urbi Khan is a journalist, freelance writer and storyteller. She runs workshops on media and community story-writing at then on-profit, Bangladeshi-Canadian Community Services (BCS). She’s worked with the Toronto Star and has had work appear in the Globe and Mail, UofT Med Magazine and the Represent Asian project, among others. She spoke strongly about her own lived experiences as a Bangladeshi woman in white spaces and the need for women of colour to be visible and respected in our media.
The moderator, Jenny, from Time’s Change Women’s Employment, asked thought-provoking questions that really allowed the panelist to speak about their experiences. A Portuguese-English spoken word artist Angelica graced us with four poems about love, strength, self-growth, and reflection after the panel. The room was filled with her passion. Following her was a representative from the Children’s Book Bank who distributed nearly 200 free books, many celebrating women and girls! To close out the event, eight raffle prizes were given away to lucky attendees.
Thanks to some amazing collaborators, Sherbourne, TNG, TNO, Sick Kids, Times Change Women’s Employment Service, Sick Kids, The Corner and everyone involved for making this an unforgettable event. Afterwards, The Corner men cooked falafels, tabbouleh, fruits and more to feed the other staff and volunteers of the day on International Women’s Day! It will always mean something a little different to everyone and this year at The Corner it was not only about ‘Embracing Equity’ but also embracing our differences and uplifting our communities. Our minds and hearts were full after the event, and we can’t wait to see how we will top it next year.