Celebrating a Century: The 100th International Women’s Day

This year marks the 100th celebration of International Women’s Day.

The holiday is observed throughout most of the world as a day to show love, honor, respect, and appreciation towards women’s political, economic, and social achievements.  It is an official holiday in almost every nation, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Russia, Uganda, Germany, and the US.

Lots of events take place all across the globe during the month of March to honor women’s achievements.  Each year has a different theme, and one of the prominent themes the UN has selected for 2011 focuses on equal access to education and training – particularly in the areas of science and technology – as a pathway to decent work for women, as well as a sub-theme of ending violence against women and girls.

Although the West has come far in the past century in establishing equality among men and women, developing nations have a significant gender gap.  Some of the world’s worst social injustices are against women.

So let’s band together as members of not only racial equality but also gender equality, and honour women everywhere, be it your mother, your wife, your sister or your next door neighbour.

Here’s Daniel Craig in drag for International Women’s Day

The theme for 2011 is: Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women

Watch this space as our writers will be updating this article throughout the month of March with campaigns that are relevant to International Women’s Day.

Nobel Peace Laureate: Jody Williams

“…The eternal sentry.”

Jody WilliamsThis phrase would be befitting of a valiant soldier whose bravery and courage are worthy of recognition. However, the intent of Jody Williams, the 1997 Noble Peace Prize winner, was to describe the war weapons known as landmines and to cease production of these weapons whose effects last long beyond the wars for which they were intended.

Jody Williams life has been colored with efforts to be rid of human injustices. With a background in International Relations, her experience speaking against a US backed war in El Salvador has contributed and continues to help her fight against the use of landmines. When she accepted the task initially presented to her by Bobby Muller, then president of Vietnam Veterans of America she went on to create the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) in October of 1992.

Over 1000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in 60 different countries answered the call to sign the treaty to ban landmines initially. Under Jody Williams leadership she was even able to capture the interest of the late Princess Diana who visited the countries of Angola and Bosnia, two of the most heavily mined countries. In December of 1997, 122 countries signed the treaty and to date 156 countries have responded.

In only five years Ms. Williams has achieved what many spend a lifetime researching or serving to obtain. But for her tenacity and drive she’s been able to join the ranks of women who have earned Nobel Peace Prizes.

Here’s Jody Williams explaining why she joined in issuing the Global Call to Action:

Contribution from Zuri Kelly

The strength of a century: 100 years of the Old Y

A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform. – Diane Mariechild

There’s something about an anniversary that always gives cause for reflection. When I read fellow The Socially Conscious Blog writer Crystal Huskey’s article about the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, I started reflecting about another celebration of century that has also had a tremendous impact on the lives of many women.

Top View of the Old Y

The building I work in has a long history of making a difference in the lives of women in the city of Calgary and surrounding area. Built in 1911, the Old Y Centre for Community Organizations was Calgary’s original YWCA, home to the growing populations of women who were moving to the city to find work. At the time, it was generally acknowledged that there wasn’t a more modern building west of Toronto.

This was just the beginning.  The “Y” became the home of the first Girl Guide unit in western Canada. The women of the “Y” established the Traveler’s Aid program and assisted many men, women and children in adjusting to their new life in Western Canada. The building and its tenants also played a significant role in the community through two World Wars as a canteen for training soldiers and as support for Service Women.

Jessie (Chappie) Chapman

Jessie “Chappie” Chapman

If the walls of this building could talk, they would tell some incredible stories. They would definitely talk about Jessie “Chappie” Chapman who lived in and managed the building for over forty years. She was best known around town as the leader of the Traveler’s Aid program and was named one of fourteen National YWCA Women of the Century in 1969. The walls would probably also share about being a home to women from all over Western Canada who arrived in Calgary to attend business schools or teacher’s college and how the centre provided meals to its residents for only 30 cents a plate. Many of Calgary’s pioneer women sought resources through the services provided by the “Y”. Countless hopes and dreams for the future were envisioned and realized within these walls.

A new chapter in its history began in 1971 when the YWCA moved to a new facility and the city took possession of the original building. It was given a facelift and many local community organizations moved in. The purpose of the Old Y changed from a women’s residence to a place that provided low cost office rental space for non-profit agencies that serve the citizens of Calgary. The years haven’t always been kind to the stout red brick building with the wide veranda. It has been through numerous renovations and threats of redevelopment by the city. Through it all, it has become a symbol of strength and resiliency for those who have received assistance from the organizations housed inside its walls.

The list of organizations that have focused on women’s needs is a long one. Some of the past tenant’s of the Old Y have included: Alberta Native Women’s Society, Alberta Status of Women Action Committee, Calgary Birth Control Association, Calgary Immigrant Women’s Centre, Calgary Lesbian and Gay Political Action Guild, Perspective Women’s Newspaper, Women’s Collective Social and Recreational Society of Calgary, Calgary Women’s Writing Project and many more.  The Calgary Women’s Health Collective has offered counseling services for women who are seeking guidance by female counselors since 1967 and is currently the longest resident in the building.

Old Y Original Committee

The Old Y Original Committee

Though the current tenants don’t exclusively serve women anymore, women direct and are employed by the majority of them. Many women have walked through the narrow hallways of the Old Y over the past 100 years. All of these women inspire me. Whether past, present or future, they are all part of a tradition of strong women in this city and I am proud to be a part of the legacy.

For more information about the Old Y and all the great organizations that work within its walls, visit www.oldycentre.com

Contribution from Laura Istead

Artist Ilene Sova Uses Her Skills to Help Find Missing Women

A mother, niece, sister, aunt and any other female relative and friend has a special spot in each of our hearts.  It is an unimaginable experience that too many people have to go through – when one of these women go missing.

Ilene Sova is an Ontario artist who was inspired by the disturbing way missing women are dealt with by both the police and the media.  She has started to paint large-scale portraits of all the women who went missing in Ontario between 1970 and 2000.  Sova is doing extensive research into each woman to gain knowledge of their personality, in order to properly represent them

With the hope of enriching and fostering discussion on violence against women, Sova plans to tour to various locations across Ontario with this exhibition.

Missing Women Art

Contribution from Caitlin Decarie

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