The Conestoga community celebrated International Women's Day (IWD) on March 9 with activities across campuses that included a panel discussion, interactive displays and workshops focused on this year’s theme, Equal for Each.
The Conestoga community celebrated International Women’s Day with a panel centred on highlighting and uplifting voices of Indigenous women. L-R: Moderator Zinal Axaykumar Shah, Amy Smoke, Lois MacDonald, Christina Restoule and moderator Jermal Jones.
Recognized globally, IWD celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and marks a call-to-action for accelerating gender parity. Activities at the college were hosted by a student-led committee with support from Student Engagement and Conestoga Students Inc. in an effort to raise awareness and engage in collective action.
Hosted at the Doon campus, the panel discussion centred on highlighting and uplifting voices of Indigenous women -- a group that is often overlooked. Conestoga graduate Amy Smoke, community elder Lois MacDonald, and Be-Dah-Bin Gamik’s Christina Restoule shared their thoughts on celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness against bias and taking action for equality.
“I like to think about my daughter in these times,” said Restoule. “I want to be the person in her life that she looks up to, that she’s proud of, that she knows I’m always going to be here as a support for her. I think International Women’s Day is important for all women. We need to have strong role models for our children -- for our girls -- so that they understand it’s ok to be bold, that it’s ok to shine bright and not dim their light for anybody.”
Restoule also commented on the importance of using IWD as a platform to raise awareness on issues like missing and murdered Indigenous women.
“I’m grateful that we have three Indigenous women up here,” Restoule continued. “There’s a lot of issues in Canada around missing and murdered Indigenous women, and the statistics are horrendous. I’m happy to be sitting here with my sisters, and that’s good news.”
In addition to the panel discussion, the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region hosted workshops at the college’s Doon, Cambridge, Waterloo and Kitchener - Downtown campuses. Participants focused on how actions, behaviours, attitudes and beliefs contribute to a culture of gendered violence and were provided opportunities to reflect on changes needed to create a safer community.
Leading up to IWD, the student-led committee nominated Conestoga faculty who have inspired them. Suzanne Gordon, Sweta Gupta, Carolyn Harrison, Colleen Holmes-Cumming, Laura Turner and Estatira Shirkhodaee were celebrated during activities at the Doon campus.
Conestoga’s Student Engagement team meets the needs of students through innovative programming designed to achieve goals with learning outcomes-based initiatives including the Co-Curricular Record, Orientation, the Respect Campaign, the Connect Leadership Workshop Series, and various student volunteer and committee opportunities.