Celebrating Inspirational Women

The theme of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2023 is #EmbraceEquity. Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness about discrimination. Take action to drive gender parity. IWD belongs to everyone, everywhere. Inclusion means all IWD action is valid.

At United Way GWD, we are celebrating inspirational women who make Guelph, Wellington and Dufferin amazing places to live, work and thrive. We asked them: “What does embracing equity mean to you?”

“Embracing equity means actively working through our personal and public policies, programs, and practices toward a society where everyone can thrive.”

Juli-Anne James, Co-Founder and President at Streams Community Hub

“Embracing equity to me means listening before acting; I know many people have good intentions when acting on behalf of others, but you need to take the time to listen to make sure you get the point of why people need to see change. We all have such beautiful lenses through which we get to live and perceive life; collectives of people have shared experiences, which paints a picture of where change can come from. That is why I fell in love with The Grove; when I started working at The Grove, I realized that the organization’s foundation is based on youth voices when creating youth spaces and services. That is where I got my most eye-opening experience in embracing equity. I realized that when you offer the community a chance to be heard, they will talk about the beauty of hope that lies within the ears waiting for equity to begin.”

Cachzmiera Wisniewski, Community Engagement Coordinator at The Grove Hubs – Fergus

“Embracing equity means changing the ‘go to’ heteronormative, binary gendered thinking and shifting to definitions and thinking inclusive of all genders. Embracing equity looks like centering voices of the most marginalized gender identities and expressions and creating brave spaces for trans and non-binary young people to show up, be themselves and lead the way forward.”

Bonnie DePaul, Director of Services at Dufferin Child & Family Services

Embracing equity means providing safe, brave spaces where all people can feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, without the burden of systemic oppression and exclusion. Embracing equity is being cognizant of the social, historical and systemic barriers that perpetuate marginalization, and disrupting these barriers as a way forward to our collective liberation. It’s acknowledging that we are powerful not despite the complexities and uniqueness of our identities, but because of them.” 

Nasra Hussein, Health Equity Lead at the Guelph Neighborhood Support Coalition

“This is a difficult question, because women’s equity movements have and continue to exclude the voices and experiences of 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, people with disabilities, Black, and Indigenous women. Failing to include (and celebrate!) their inherent power and deep value in this space means that equity will never be achievable. I recognize my profound privilege as a white cis-woman and understand that my work towards equity and justice must be centered with, and around, folks who continue to experience violence caused by white feminism.

To me, ‘embracing equity’ means that we embrace the expansive possibility of gender; we actively seek to centre the voices and experiences of gender-diverse and marginalized folks in movements towards equity. It means we build spaces and programs that are inclusive. It means we listen to understand. It means we reflect and confront our privilege and biases. It means we challenge ourselves to learn better, and then do better. It means that everyone has the resources and supports they need to be successful. It means that we stop prioritizing whiteness and start challenging how society profits off marginalized bodies.  It means we do not settle for close enough or good enough; we go out of our way to make sure every single person is safe, included, celebrated, and deeply valued.

When we create safe and empowering spaces for folks to exist, participate, and ultimately, thrive, we foster the possibility for fundamental change to take shape. The goal, without a doubt, is to tear down the system with an excitement for what is possible; to see that better, kinder, safer, are not out of reach; to understand that collaboration and connection is what those in power are afraid of. At its core,  ‘embracing equity’ is a powerful reminder that change is possible.”

Meg Harron, Program Manager at the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington

“Embracing equity” means meeting people where they are at – without judgement. It means celebrating, learning from and growing as a result of our differences. Intersectionality is everything and our work will never be done until everyone’s humanity is met with compassion, care and love.”

Chef Yasi Zorlutuna, Project Lead at the Community FEWD Project

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