LANARK - While a women’s place is no longer in the kitchen, the women of the North Lanark Community Health decided that they wanted to be in the kitchen for last week’s International Women’s Day.
“It’s fun to cook together,” said Hinda Goldberg, as her ‘sisters’ busied themselves behind her, before adding quickly, “not to suggest that women should only be doing the cooking!”
The health centre has held several events to commemorate women in the past, with diverse events such as yoga and belly dancing.
“This year we are making nutritious snacks,” said Goldberg, the community development and health promoter at the clinic.
Ann Munroe, chair of the clinic’s board of directors, remembered back to the 1980s when the Lanark County Women’s Network was being developed.
“Now, I look around the county and I see so many opportunities for women,” said Munroe. She noted that her clinic was, itself, a very female-positive place.
“Rather than this being a one-day celebration of women, we have an all-year emphasis on women, and women in leadership roles,” said Munroe.
Once the women gathered around to share their meal, the conversation began, and there was collective jaw-dropping when Goldberg read out the long list of countries that celebrate International Women’s Day as a holiday.
“Afghanistan?” many women were heard to mutter, as Goldberg continued down the list of countries, some of which are not known for being at the forefront of the women’s rights movement. Countries as diverse as Cuba and Zambia, Belarus and Eritrea, Uganda and Russia celebrate the day, and in China, Nepeal, and Madagascar, women – not men – get the day off.
The women noted how, with the exception of Belarus and Russia, there was a dearth of European countries, and no continental North American or South American countries.
In kicking off the conversation, Goldberg said she wanted to begin “engaging men to end violence against women,” and to encourage literacy for women.
“Fifty per cent (female) literacy seems to be the tipping point,” Goldberg said. “As women’s literacy goes up, family size goes down.”
While International Women’s Day came out of the organized labour movement about 100 years ago, and even through organizations such as the Socialist International, closer to home, and as recently as today, women are still on the forefront of social change.
“The leadership of Idle No More has been female-driven,” said Goldberg. One reason for this may be because there are more aboriginal children in social service care today than there were at the time of the residential schools system.
“What we are doing to aboriginals is criminal,” said one attendee.
There was also agreement that women not only need to support each other, but to become more confident in their own abilities.
“For women, in general, I am sure I can say we have some self-esteem issues,” said Goldberg.
The women also debated whether they even needed a women’s day, but Rev. Shelley Roberts of the Lanark United church said that “we don’t get enough time to celebrate women.”