The Conestoga community celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 with activities at the Doon campus that included a panel of students, employees and alumni discussing this year’s theme, Balance for Better.
The Conestoga community celebrated International Women’s Day with a panel of students, employees and alumni discussing gender balance. L-R: Jermal Alleyne, Barjinder Matharoo, Emilynn Ler Derna, Erin Edwards, Estatira Shirkhodaee, Sue Foxton, and co-moderators Maryann Kerr and Jeff Perera.
Celebrated globally, International Women’s Day recognizes the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and marks a call-to-action for accelerating gender parity. Conversations this year focused on forging a more gender-balanced world while championing the progress made thus far. Moderated by philanthropist Maryann Kerr and speaker and facilitator Jeff Perera, the diverse panel shared their thoughts on gender equality and the part that everyone has to play.
“Some might be thinking, why is a man co-moderating this panel?” said Perera as he started the discussion. “I think part of that is how we need, more than ever these days in the era of divide, to model how we can have conversations together. It’s not us versus them."
Echoing Perera, Conestoga instructor Estatira Shirkhodaee reminded the room that men are a big part of the conversation. “When we talk about gender equality, we talk about men supporting women. It’s collaborative work.”
Shirkhodaee serves on the Soroptimist International Eastern Canada Region board, a global organization whose members work to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world. As an advocate, she raises awareness on issues women face in Canada.
“If you compare Canada to to the rest of the world, we are leaders in human rights and women’s rights,” Shirkhodaee said, “but there is still work that can be done,” citing cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women as an issue she follows closely.
North Dumfries Mayor and Regional Councillor Sue Foxton, who graduated from Conestoga’s Recreation and Leadership program in 1974, added that gender balance has come a long way. “When I graduated from high school I was the only woman in my class that went on to education.” Foxton later stated that there were no female instructors in her program at time.
Leading up to International Women’s Day, the #Condors4Equality competition asked students to create a poster that captures what the Conestoga community does to support gender equality. Erin Edwards, a first-year Advertising and Marketing Communications student, won for her submission representing diverse perspectives and promoting unity and women empowerment.
Speaking as part of the panel, Edwards commended the college community for its inclusiveness. “I was born in a smaller town and I can say that there’s a huge difference. Coming somewhere where diversity is celebrated more and where women can feel like they have earned their accomplishments is very important, and I think it’s really great that our college supports that so much.”
This year’s activities were hosted by a student-led committee with support from Student Engagement and Conestoga Students Inc., and aimed to raise awareness and engage in collective action with the college community.