Community celebrates International Women's Day
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
More than 30 women packed St. Andrew’s United Church to celebrate International Women’s Day.
The free community event, held on March 7, featured a buffet lunch, a free raffle draw with a variety of prizes, live music from Reilly Scott (a singer/songwriter from Kenora and former Sioux Lookout resident) and guest speaker Yolaine Kirlew. The event was hosted by Sioux Lookout’s Domestic Violence Action and Awareness Committee, which includes First Step Women’s Shelter, Sunset Women’s Aboriginal Circle, Ontario Native Women’s Association, Ah-shawah-bin Support Services, Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, Equay-Wuk (Women’s Group) and St. Andrew’s United Church.
According to internationalwomensday.com, “International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women's Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Prior to this the Socialist Party of America, United Kingdom's Suffragists and Suffragettes, and further groups campaigned for women's equality. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.”
Guest speaker Yolaine Kirlew, a former Sioux Lookout Councillor and former 3rd Vice-President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, had a message and special card, courtesy of Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa, to pass along to the women in attendance.
“Sol values the work that women contribute to our riding and our constituency so much that he asked that we stop by and affirm that the value of women in our community is a rare and wonderful gift to us...Your voices are valued and appreciated and, should you have any concerns regarding provincial government, that he is proud to be your representative to take your concerns and voiced issues to our current government,” she shared.
When asked about the opportunity to host this event at St. Andrew’s United Church, retired United Church minister Aileen Urquhart shared that the church is dedicated to community involvement.
“It’s fantastic. The church has always had a fairly strong commitment to community involvement and outreach. This was part of that commitment, so we’re happy to host this and be involved. It’s a fabulous group of people,” she said.
Members of Sioux Lookout’s Domestic Violence Action and Awareness Committee explained that this was one of many yearly community events that they host in town, along with Sisters in Spirit, Take Back the Night, Shine the Light, Mother’s Day Tea, community hay rides, and free skates at the arena.
“We bring people together, and it’s always a free event for the public. We’re all non-profits,” said Geneva Sainnawap, Ah-shawah-bin Victim Services Executive Director.
“There are always new faces at each event. Even today there are new faces that I’ve never seen before, so it attracts new and different people,” she continued.
“Generally it’s about getting the women together, but it doesn’t always have to be women. It can be families, men, extended families...It’s indigenous and also incorporates Caucasian families as well. We don’t say no. This isn’t a closed group. We’re cultural and we’re spiritual and we do a lot of functions around that. We won’t do a function without having a cultural element to it,” shared Kim Murphy, Circle of Care worker with Sunset Women’s Aboriginal Circle.
Along with getting into the community and hosting events, the committee meets regularly to collaborate on how to educate the community on domestic violence.
“As far as the committee, we do meet once a month, and we collectively try and do great things in the community to bring awareness and education on domestic violence,” said Cindy Phillips, Aboriginal sexual assault worker for Ontario Native Women’s Association.
“Awareness and education around domestic violence is good for everyone to know about,” she concluded.