All posts by Laura Ip

About Laura Ip

Laura Ip is the Resource Development Coordinator at YWCA Niagara Region. She is also a mother, educator, vegan, boxer, anti-racist feminist, activist, advocate, member of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce Women In Niagara Council, and member of the Living Wage working group for Niagara Poverty Reduction Network.

We must raise the bar

You’ve heard it before. You’ve been discussing an incident of domestic violence or sexual assault with or in the vicinity of men and a man has piped up and said, “That’s not my problem. I don’t abuse or assault women. I respect women and treat them right.”

And that’s all well and good, but maybe we need to raise the bar of what it means to be a “good guy” a little higher than simply “I don’t abuse or assault women.”

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“You have a right to be here.”

Debbie Zimmerman speaking at WINspirational Women. Photo credit: Renate Hodges.

She spoke these words a few times over the course of the evening and – most powerfully – she ended on them. “You have a right to be here.”

Debbie Zimmerman, CEO of Grape Growers of Ontario and long-time local politician was speaking to a room full of women (and a few men) at Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce‘s Women in Niagara (WIN) Council event: WINspirational Women. I had the additional pleasure of sitting beside Debbie’s mother, Pearle Roy, and chatting with her about how strong all of her daughters are. Continue reading

The obstacle-ridden road to recovery

Erica lived with various mental health challenges, including borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, and addictions to alcohol and drugs. She tried for so many years to get better, but the road to recovery was littered with obstacles.

Erica started drinking when she was 12 and, admittedly, I had no idea what to do beyond telling my parents, and I certainly did not understand what was happening or how/if I could help her. I chalked the addictions up to choices she was making, because that was the context in which I had learned about my grandparents’ and my aunt’s alcoholism – they were making choices. Continue reading

We’re Rich… in Illness and Inequality

I have a little confession to make. I can’t stand inspirational quotes. Well, most of them anyway. Some are, I admit, clever. But I think it’s their trite reductionism that brings out my inner sneer. The worst ones, to my mind, are the oft-used statements on wealth. You know, the “money can’t buy happiness” type of boring blanket observation. Yeah sure, whatever, but it sure can buy a lot of other things, often including health. Income is one of the most important social determinants of health. Income, I would argue, is everything. It determines where we live, how we live, our stress levels, the quality of our early life, how well we live in later life, and even how long we live. Continue reading

Imagine what a living wage could do

This month, YWCA bloggers have written about poverty and their experiences with it. I have my own experience, which I’ve written about before, but today I want you to imagine what a living wage could do for our most vulnerable workers in Niagara.

Recently, we were told that St. Catharines is the worst city in Canada for a job and an affordable home. While some people around Niagara will spend a great deal of time pointing out the flaws with the study (and there are a few), many of us know that what was reported in this article is not far from the truth.

It is difficult to find a job in St. Catharines/Niagara (and even more difficult to find one that pays more than minimum wage, never mind finding one that isn’t seasonal or otherwise precarious) and it is difficult to afford to buy a home in St. Catharines/Niagara. Continue reading

Two Enormous Resounding Yeses

Yesterday, my coworker and friend, Kaitlyn, wrote a blog entry about her decision to not have children. Now, before I continue with what I hope people read as an entry that complements hers, let me tell you that Kaitlyn is an intelligent, compassionate, principled woman, who doesn’t need my validation.

I agree with what she’s written, and I come at this from a different perspective. Continue reading

Representation and empowerment

Board member Julie Rorison writes some more of her thoughts following her attendance at the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women.

For two weeks each spring, the United Nations headquarters in New York City hosts the annual Conference on the Status of Women where governments, NGO’s, charities and interest groups from around the world come together to evaluate progress and set new goals for women and girls’ equality and empowerment – because it’s 2016, and yes, we still have work to do. (Listen to my interview with Tim Denis on 610 CKTB for more on the issues: https://soundcloud.com/timdenis/mar-2216-julie-rorison-chair-ywca-niagara-leadership-summit-for-womenon#t=0:00)

It’s interesting to think about what the UN headquarters looked like for those two weeks in contrast to what it normally looks like. Because yes, it’s 2016 and yes, men still dominate the levers of international politics. But picture this at the CSW: the seats of the General Assembly, UN conference rooms and hallways filled with women and young people meeting, debating and negotiating an international agreement. Think about those internet memes where historical pictures of world leaders (men) are replaced by women. It was very empowering to see women and young people take centre stage at the UN. From government delegations to NGO’s like the YWCA and our sister organizations from all around the world, it was quite literally, the opposite of a typical international conference.

As I continue to reflect on the conference, I think about how it made me feel, for that’s what you really remember about people and places and events – how it made you feel, and it felt amazing and powerful. The environment was peaceful, warm and welcoming. Conversations were deeply personal and full of emotion. Participants were colourful and diverse and reflective. Questions were thoughtful, measured and respectful. The tone was collaborative. Leadership and the microphone were shared and power was distributed. The conference was very “feminine” in that discussions were filled with compassion, empathy and emotional intellect, qualities that are traditionally defined as feminine gender norms, and I believe it was a great success.

What I want to say is that so often these qualities are equated with weakness, not strength; as negative, not positive attributes of powerful or competent leaders, and that’s where we go so wrong. These gendered ideas of leadership limit our ability to support and empower competent and capable leaders. As our Prime Minister spoke about at the CSW, it’s critical that we challenge these gender norms to create change and I couldn’t agree more. It’s critical that we, as a society, have opportunities to experience leadership in a different way – to literally see and hear women and diversity and femininity. Every young girl and every woman should feel empowered by the leadership they see around them and on TV.  We must continue to create more space for women in leadership to use the feminine leadership traits that could really benefit the entire world and the way we do business.

Now that the CSW is over and the regular business of international politics has resumed with this week’s nuclear summit in Washington, it’s clear that we still have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in politics and international governance. Coming back from the UN and watching the news I think about what it would be like if more women and girls were negotiating the peace and security of the world at the nuclear summit. Would the outcomes be different if representatives were even slightly more balanced between men and women and young and old? Would it really make a difference? I think that answer is yes. If we had more women and young people in positions of power the world really would be a different place. I’ve seen it and I believe it.

This is why organizations like the YWCA are so important in our communities. Our leadership is diverse and reflects the community we serve. We work collaboratively to support women and youth to take their space as leaders and do amazing things. We recognize leadership in its diversity and femininity and we create space for men and boys to understand why we still need feminism. That’s what the Niagara Leadership Summit for Women is all about and why I can’t wait to continue to grow and learn and celebrate the beautiful, feminine and diverse leadership of our community again this year.  I hope you’ll join us.

The practice of child ‘marriage’ needs to end

Board member, Julie Rorison, writes about one of the most impactful experiences she had at the recent United Nations Conference on the Status of Women:

As a young Canadian woman, I’ve grown up to be empowered by many legal rights, freedoms, and protections. I think that as Canadians, we are all generally aware of how lucky we are to live strong and free and that is what empowerment is – it is the right and the ability to make decisions for oneself. Perhaps now more than ever in these “transitional” years, I am deeply aware of the most critical rights and empowering choices I can make as a young woman – the right to an education and the right to work and the right to choose if or when I want to get married and have children. Continue reading

Getting to Know You Questions – Gender Barriers, Myths, and Misconceptions

In March, our blog is all about Gender Barriers, Myths, and Misconceptions. Get to know your bloggers better and read their thoughts on this topic.
They were given these seven questions:
  1. What are your thoughts on the marketing of gender specific toys for young children?
  2. Have you broken a gender barrier either professionally or personally?  Please share your experience.
  3. The new Ghostbusters movie is out, with an all women cast – in your opinion does the making of this movie breakdown gender barriers and misconceptions?
  4. What is the one misconception people have about you, as a woman?  What would you like them to know about you?
  5. Have you had a gender myth or misconception, that you realize now was not true?  Can you share?
  6. What is one double-standard that still exists today – that you would like to see gone!
  7. Do you have a “breaking down barriers” heroine or hero?  Please tell us their story.

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Cultural Myths and Misconceptions About Beauty

Blogger Slavica writes about beauty myths….

Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is the fairest one of all?”

We don’t know what we look like. Our perceptions of ourselves are developed through others because we can only see what’s in front of us. Which is why that damn mirror is so handy because we can finally see our faces. However, when we look, all we seem to see is our flaws. Our ancient ancestors did not worry much about things like beauty or hygiene for that matter but today’s modern day homo sapiens are told we are not good enough. Continue reading