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Listen for the voices from the margins

International Women’s Day signals the struggle for equality and inclusion
By: Antoinette Mercurio
March 16, 2018
Illustration of diverse female faces

Photo: This year’s International Women’s Day at Ryerson included a number of different events for attendees to choose from. 

In the wake of the #metoo movement, this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) reminded community members that we have to work together to challenge the status quo.

The Office of the Vice-President, Equity, Community and Inclusion and Ryerson’s Human Rights Services partnered with various offices and groups across campus to host a day of activities that included panels, workshops and self-care sections to do yoga and de-stress.

“International Women’s Day was sparked by struggle and there would be no progress without struggle,” said Kiké Roach, the Unifor Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy. Roach led the IWD’s panel, Inequality, Power and Sexual Violence: Where #metoo intersects with systemic inequality.

“Gender-based violence isn’t new,” said Yamikani Msosa, specialist in the Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education. “Saying it starts with #metoo, erases the people who fought for years before. When we talk about sexual harassment, we have to move from the margin to the centre. People in marginalized positions are often not included in the conversation or invited to the table.”

One of the speakers on the panel, Duana Taha, a television writer, says that despite many allegations that have been made, the entertainment industry is “still very much a Wild West.”

“Small steps are being taken but it’s going to take more demands to continue the momentum to dismantle the status quo,” Taha said. “Representation is sparse in the industry and putting the expectation on people of colour or LGBTQ people to come forward is enormous.”

For those on the margins who aren’t quite ready to use their voice, writing can bring some catharsis.

Toni De Mello, director of Human Rights, brought in artist-educator, author and spoken word artist, Sheniz Janmohamed to lead a Women’s Writing Circle, a workshop for female-identified people to free write in a journal. Janmohamed gave attendees prompts to reflect on women in their lives that they felt supported or inspired by.

“There is power in free writing and personal reflection,” De Mello said. “I think that part of systemic change is to build community circles where folks feel heard and understood and seen. It's not to exclude the larger or dominant group but to give more space for voices that are not always heard in the dominant group. For me, I remember the first circle I joined being a space where I could talk about my family history, about growing up poor, about struggling as a racialized person in white spaces, about watching my parents struggle. We need to have space just to express and pour ourselves out – not even to be read to others but just to be. We need to hear each other.”

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