A High School Student Talks Global Gender Issues

By 1JustCity Citizen
June 8, 2016

Check out the experience of a Winnipeg high school student in putting on a Gender Issues Symposium. It’s great to see young people getting involved in talking about justice!

As a part of my grade twelve World Issues class at College-Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau, we were tasked to put into place a take action plan. Throughout the semester,our teacher Larry Paetkau introduced us to a variety of different topics concerning how our world functions and the problems we face.

Immediately I was interested in the topic of women’s rights as we discussed quite a bit the injustices that women face in developing countries as well as here in Canada. I was intrigued which put into motion an idea for my Take Action plan.

Along with two other girls from my class, who all had the same interest in raising awareness on women’s rights, we brainstormed an idea to have a “Ladies Night”. We wanted to have perhaps a couple of speakers who could share with our community their experiences with women’s rights here in Canada and around the world. The goal of the evening was to raise awareness and put into motion the idea of working together to create a better environment for women everywhere. This little idea evolved into something we could have never imagined.

Through our teachers connections as well as our own, we got in touch with four amazing women, who all agreed to come and share their stories. As our planning went on, we decided we would have a panel discussion to engage the audience with the speakers in a more relaxed way.

On May 30th, everything was set and our speakers came with their stories and experiences that they were excited to share with our friends and community.

Our first presenter was Warda Ahmed. spoke about the lives of newcomers specifically from a woman’s point of view. It was interesting to hear from her point of view how important being included and accepted into her new country was to her as well as the newcomers she works with today. Personally I learned a lot about an experience that I have never faced before. It was humbling to appreciate what I have and learn about what I could do to help with a woman as they transition into a brand new country.

Second on our panel was Kelly Fitzmaurice. As a midwife, she discussed the topic of reproductive rights. Many of the people in attendance were not familiar with what a midwife does so Kelly’s presentation was very informative. She went through the different areas of midwifery and touched specifically on her relationship with women who did not feel comfortable delivering their babies in hospitals. She shared with us how she believes that having one caretaker throughout pregnancy helps women feel more safe and comfortable while delivering her baby. I thought what she had to share was very refreshing and opened my eyes to a topic that I previously had no knowledge in.

Following Kelly, we welcomed Catherine Biaya, a woman originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo who arrived here in 2007. She volunteers in raising awareness on violence against women specifically on rape as a weapon of war in DRC. When she spoke about her experiences with rape back in her home country, everyone in the room was silent. When she started to talk about her late sister, who back in Congo was murdered by her husband for refusing to marry off their young daughter, there was not a dry eye in the room. It was at that moment that I knew we accomplished what we had set out to do. By bringing in a speaker like Catherine who spoke of things we could have never even imagined we brought to attention what is really going on in the world and how fortunate we are to live where we live.

Finally, Breanne Lavallee-Heckert, a former student of our school who will be attending McGill school of law this fall after completing her degree in Human Rights at the University of Winnipeg was our final speaker. To wrap everything up and put into perspective how we can overcome injustices, she spoke about how it’s important to make local and global women’s movements more inclusive for all women, and that without women the movement itself wouldn’t be successful.
Overall, it was an incredibly successful night and even though it was a part of our final grade, I feel like we made a true and honest impact. My only hope for the future is that we remember what was shared with us that night and use it to change the way we live our daily lives.

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