Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day when women, since the early 1900s around the world, celebrate the achievements of women.
In 1908, women marched through New York City in demand for shorter working hours, better pay and, even more importantly … voting rights. International Women’s Day was first held on March 19, 1911 throughout Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland when more than one million women and men took part.
Closer to home, each year, the Women’s House Serving Bruce and Grey celebrates women and their contributions to economic, political and social aspects of life with a celebration that is a fundraiser for the organization that helps women and children.
In Port Elgin, the annual event hosted by Bruce County’s Business to Bruce in partnership with the Women’s House, was held on Thursday, March 7th at the Lakeshore Recreation Centre with more than 200 in attendance.
With a silent and live auction, the return of the Trivia contest and a buffet of appetizers and decadent desserts, it was also a fun evening.
Pat O’Connor, Constituency Manager for MP Ben Lobb, brought remarks from the Huron-Bruce MP. “This is an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the women who have taken on spirited and progressive ways in social entrepreneurship, working together to create lasting social solutions.”
Kincardine Mayor and Bruce County Councilor, Anne Eadie, also attended the event saying that the event had several partners, including Bruce County, the Women’s House Serving Bruce and Grey, the Province of Ontario and the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs. “We are here tonight to celebrate our female entrepreneurs and business owners. Some are creative and ambitious women who have risked it all to take their ideas to the next level. Some are women who tackle fear head-on in areas previously dominated by male cohorts. Others are women who wake up every morning and are determined to make a difference in this world in their own unique way. A quote that applies to us all ….
“You know you can’t do all the good that the world needs,
but the world needs all the good that you can do ” ….
by Andi Sharma
As women we call be leaders for positive change in our corner of the world however big or small and I truly believe that. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Balance for Better’ and tonight we will acknowledge that balance and equality among men and women is improving every day and it is important that we continue to advocate for this. I always think of the generations of women that came before and I hope that the younger women appreciate the progress that has been made. Women always went by their husband’s names and property in the rural areas was referred to by that so it has really changed in my lifetime.”
Eadie added that she remembered when the Women’s House first began in Kincardine and, as a teacher at the time, she learned first-hand the positive difference that the Women’s House made to women and children in the community. “Although the government provides funding for the Women’s House, the community has to top it up to keep beneficial programs running. We are very happy to announce tonight that all proceeds from this event are being donated to the Women’s House.”
Michelle Lamont, Executive Director of the Women’s House, said that the Women’s House and Business to Bruce have unique qualities that balance and complement each other. Both offer programs and services to help women have better lives and to give them the tools to fulfill their dreams. “The programs at Women’s House are free of charge to women 16 years and older and their children who have experienced abuse and/or homelessness. The issue of abuse is not limited to income, status or where they live it is rooted in power and control and can be found in surprising places. We help with shelter, counseling, outreach counseling that can be individual or group, transitional housing support, education and whatever else they need to help them get back into society. In addition we provide sexual assault counseling and second-stage secure housing for one year for women trying to establish homes of their own.”
Lamont confirmed that despite government funding there is always a gap that has to be filled through fundraising. “This year, the gap was $147,561. Therefore, events like this, help to support our fundraisers along with donors and supporters and without them, we would have to reduce our programs and services.”
Board Chair, Tracy Primeau of Bruce Power, said that there are 32 sponsors of the Women’s House with cash, in-kind and capital sponsorship. “This year, we exceeded the gap needed and raised over $157,000. It’s through continued and sustained sponsorship that we’ll be able to consistently provide the services needed in our communities for the long term. Among the sponsors at various levels are Enbridge, Bruce Telecom, Power Workers Union, United Way, Community Foundation of Grey and Bruce, Trillium Foundation, Home Depot UNIFOR and Bruce Power. Everyone can play a better part in striving to help women and girls through … gender balanced workplaces, calling for gender-balanced leadership.”
Christine John, Community Specialist in Indigenous Relationships at Bruce Power, was also recognized for her leadership and ‘balance for better’. “Bruce Power is a proud sponsor of the Women’s House Serving Bruce and Grey and recognizes the importance of the services that it provides and how necessary and valuable it is. We are all advocates for balance in gender and diversity in the workplace, in local schools, the organizations we are a part of, boards and clubs that we are members of and it’s something that we need to remember to ensure that the people who are under-represented are reached out to so that they can be included. We should also be working as mentors with the young people in our lives and teach them about the value of balance and the value of diversity in our environments.
Locally, two women were recognized as the 2019 Woman of Distinction and Young Woman of Distinction.
Leanne Roche, Woman of Distinction, was nominated for being a mentor to young women at Walkerton District Community School (WDCS) and for listening and validating with a sense of humour. “She is an empowering and non-judgmental person and for 23 years worked with the toughest and emotionally vulnerable and violent students in the school. Many of the students are boys who come from a negative domineering attitude towards women. Through consistently demonstrating respect, positivity and love, she has made a huge impact on the lives of many boys and their outlook toward girls and women. For many, it is the only positive relationship they have in their lives and is literally a lifeline with her resilience, patience, kindness, empathy and conflict resolution skills.”
In her acceptance speech, Roche said that she was grateful for the recognition. “I will cherish forever the letters that people took the time to write for my nomination. It is hope that doesn’t allow me to dwell on the fact that, we as women, seem to take two big steps forward and then one big step back. The world is made up of so many good people, female and male, and I’ve lived in a time when I’ve seen so many changes in human behavior. Yet, we have a long way to go. I think of the tremendous, tumultuous efforts by women from our past and the current striving bravery of the women of today. I also think to the future where women will be safe and respected. We need to get rid of all those grey areas in our society that cause boys to grow into men who are misguided and confused. All species on earth deserve to be treated with safety, dignity and decency.
Young Woman of Distinction, Lauren Schierz, of Hanover was chosen for her mentoring and leadership with students in her school and also for coaching and leadership in skating and will be helping to inspire girls on ice leadership and team building in British Columbia in the summer. She also holds down a part-time job and is a honours student. In an initiative she began in support for the Women’s House, she has designed a series of T-shirts depicting women’s issues to raise awareness of sexual violence and create a voice for women. Schiertz said that designing the T-shirts was “… not hard work at all.
A final amount raised for the Women’s House at the the fundraiser has not as yet been determined.