Tag Archives: Equality

9 Holidays Celebrated Throughout December and January

Canada is a country that is proud of and thrives on diversity. To celebrate and highlight this, we have put together a list of holidays that happen throughout December and the beginning of January.

Saint Nicholas Day

Date: December 6th

The legendary figure of St. Nicholas is derived from Nicholas of Myra who officiated as a bishop in 4th century Greece. During his lifetime he developed a reputation for gift-giving by putting coins in other people’s shoes, which accounts for many of today’s Christmas traditions that involve leaving gifts in shoes or boots.”

Read more here.

 Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Date: December 12th

 It is believed that a man named Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary twice in Mexico City, on December 9 and December 12 in 1531. According to legend, Mary told Juan to ask the bishop to build a church on Tepeyac Hill. However, the bishop needed proof of Juan’s encounter and asked for a miracle. Juan returned to the hill to see roses in a spot where there were previously cacti. When Juan Diego returned, he showed the roses to the archbishop and also revealed an image on his cloak of the Lady of Guadalupe. The bishop was convinced of the miracle and built a church in honor of the event.”

 Read more here.

Saint Lucia’s Day

Date: December 13th

A festival of lights is held in honour of St.Lucia, one of the earliest Christian martyrs who was killed by the Romans in 304CE because of her religious beliefs.

 “In Scandinavian countries each town elects its own St. Lucia. The festival begins with a procession led by the St. Lucia designee, who is followed by young girls dressed in white and wearing lighted wreaths on their heads and boys dressed in white pajama-like costume singing traditional songs. The festival marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Scandinavia, and it is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year.”

Read more here.

 Hanukkah

Date: December 12th to 20th

“Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, is the Jewish Festival Of Lights. The date it’s celebrated changes each year, depending on the Western calendar, but it usually falls in November or December. The celebration dates back to two centuries before Christianity began, and lasts for eight days. The word ‘Hanukkah’ means dedication, and honours one of the greatest miracles in Jewish history.”

 Read more here.

Yule

Date: December 21st to January 1st

“The Pagan holiday called Yule takes place on the day of the winter solstice, around December 21 in the northern hemisphere (below the equator, the winter solstice falls around June 21). On that day (or close to it), an amazing thing happens in the sky. The earth’s axis tilts away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sun reaches its greatest distance from the equatorial plane.“

 Read more here.

Christmas Day

Date: December 25th

“The name ‘Christmas’ comes from the Mass of Christ (or Jesus). A Mass service (which is sometimes called Communion or Eucharist) is where Christians remember that Jesus died for us and then came back to life. The ‘Christ-Mass’ service was the only one that was allowed to take place after sunset (and before sunrise the next day). Thus, we get the name Christ-Mass shortened to Christmas. Christmas is now celebrated by people around the world. It is a time when family and friends come together and remember good things they have. People and especially children also like Christmas as it’s a time you give and receive presents.”

 Read more here.

Kwanzaa

Date: December 26th to January 1st

“The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles is discussed. The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans. Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.”

 Read more here.

Omisoka

Date: December 31st

“Omisoka is the last day of the year (New Year’s eve) in Japanese. Its origin is Misoka which is the last of the month, Omisoka consist Misoka and “O” which means big. There are many customs for Omisoka in Japan, Toshikoshi-soba, Osouji, Toshinoyu and more.”

 Read more here.

Three Kings Day/Epiphany

Date: January 6th

“Also known as Epiphany or Theophany, Three Kings Day is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ. The observance had its origins in the eastern Christian churches and was a general celebration of the manifestation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi, all of Jesus’ childhood events, his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, and even the miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee.”

 Read more here. 

At the YW, celebrate and honour culture and diversity in everything we do.  We’re proud to serve a community that people of all backgrounds and cultures call home. This holiday season, ask your friends or co-workers what they celebrate this time of year and what their traditions are.

Written by Valerie Chalm, former Co-Chair of Promotions & Marketing Committee, Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

Experiencing Discomfort: No Fixed Address 2018

The discomfort hit almost as soon as I lay my head down on my fluffy pillow. In a tent, with a small yoga type mattress, I could still feel every single bump in the ground. The roots digging into my bones made me continually adjust myself into a position that seemed tolerable. Tossing and turning most of the night, hearing sounds in the distance, I couldn’t help but think about the homeless people sleeping on a park bench. How exposed they must feel. How uncomfortable, terrified, and lonely they must feel. Shuffling to try to avoid those thoughts, I fell into a rough sleep. Well into the night, the cold crept upon me. Wrapping myself deeper into my warm comforter, putting my hood up, I fell into a light sleep.

The sun came up quickly and early. Groggy, I woke up so sore. Almost every part of me was aching. I struggled to pull myself together and get out of the tent. My goodness, I was exhausted. It felt like I didn’t even sleep. And yet, there are so many people in our community that sleep on park benches, in cars, on floors night after night. They’re waking up feeling awful, going to work, and going back “home” to any of those positions and doing it all over again. Can you imagine?

The thing that kept me up in the morning was knowing that in a couple of hours, I’d take a long hot shower. Id’ be able to brush my teeth and clean my face in my sink without any inconveniences. That evening I’d be able to crawl into my comfortable queen-sized bed in nice sheets and a clean comforter. The night prior’s discomforts would be all but a distant memory unlike the reality it is for so many people. And let me tell you from my experience that a tent is much more spacious than a car and it allows you to be in a better position. So I really had no reason to even have a slight negative thought about it.

One night was uncomfortable. Being sore for the entire day was awful. Every single person that participated in this event was grateful to go back to the comfort of their home. But so many people in our community don’t have that luxury. They don’t have a home or any comfort.

That’s why we take a night out of our lives each year to help the YW help our homeless. Because what’s one night compared to all of the people who do it for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years.

The Perfect Gift

We are bombarded by advertisements, displays, salespeople, and online ads of ‘the perfect gift.’

It’s all a bit much, isn’t it?

Or do you love the hustle and bustle of the season? Worrying what to get and how you’re going to find the time to even get it?

Do you love the sleepless nights filled with dreams of recipes that fail, presents that are returned, and family that doesn’t make it home for the holiday?

Do we lose something, in this commercialized version of Christmas, or do we gain what we wait for all year, to be with our families, months of planning, all over in hours of endless preparations and a few minute meal.

Is this, what Christmas was meant to be? Is this, what Christmas felt like when you were a child? Is it filled with excitement and wonder and magic and awe of the beauty that surrounds you in the lights and the giant trees, and the bigger than life presents that Santa brought for you? Is this, what Christmas still feels like to you, today?

Or can we agree, maybe, that as we’ve grown older, our families bigger, and our hearts maybe a tiny bit smaller, (I mean, how often do you really see the neighbors anyway, they don’t need a gift from you)…can we agree that maybe, as the old saying goes, “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Perhaps, the Grinch was on to something.

I’ve always been in awe of the true meaning of Christmas. Whatever your belief may be, Christmas is filled with hope and majestic wonder. Just look into the eyes of a child, or a loved one. I dare you not to smile.

Joy. Laughter. Love. Excitement. Extravagance. Tradition. Closeness. Giving.

Just a few of the words that describe Christmas for me.

But if I’m honest, I’ve lost some of the magic, too.

It’s easy to do. I think that in our fast paced, need it now, have to get the best of the best, world, we forget that the true meaning of Christmas is love. That the true spirit of Christmas is in giving, but not just giving because we have to for the many reasons that we’ve been lead to believe, but giving because it comes from our heart. Giving that means something to us, from deep within us, because it gives us joy.

Stressing over what to get everyone and spending more money than we have does not bring us joy, let’s be real here.

Joy is in the little moments of putting up the tree with our family, baking with the kids, getting that gift off the top of our niece’s or nephew’s Christmas list because we can afford it, and we know how happy they will be playing with that toy, with us. It is in the moments of, regardless of a Christmas tree with presents under it, or food on the table, we are surrounded by people who love us, exactly as we are.

Christmas is a time of togetherness.

This looks different for everyone. This could look like family and friends or neighbors and community. It could look like many presents and a table full of food or no presents and an empty belly. Or any combination of these.

There is one ingredient that can’t be taken away, despite our outside circumstances, and that ingredient is love.

We all have it, and we can all give it. We all want it and we can certainly all use it.

It might take a little humility and vulnerability, I know. It might take biting your tongue, and loving them anyway, despite what they’ve done. It might take a phone call that you’ve not made in a long time or a visit you’ve been dreading all year.

But if we can try to remember, even if just for a moment, that the perfect gift is love. That the reason for the season is hope. For a better tomorrow, for a better me, and a better you. For a better world, one that remembers love.

If we can try to all be gracious givers this holiday season. To only give what we have, with love and joy. To be peaceful and patient, with kindness that comes from a heart filled with love.

Love doesn’t look like what we bring, it looks like showing up for someone. Our families, friends, and perfect strangers.

The things just simply don’t matter when you are surrounded by people you love, or at least like, somewhat. Try to like them a little more this year.

May the true joy of Christmas surround you this holiday season ❤️

There is something that has challenged me these past couple of years. I like to give, to family and friends, but sometimes I look around and I see that my family and friends are quite blessed. So, I look for ways to give outside of the usual presents, sometimes at the expense of gifts for friends and family, and sometimes extra, depending on my own financial circumstance.

I’ve challenged myself, and I’d like to challenge you, as well.

There are many organizations in our region. The YWCA is of course one of them. These organizations need items on an ongoing basis. I know this can look like a lot of work and maybe even complicated, I know it did for me at first. Even overwhelming. But over time I’ve learned a thing or two.

Poverty has many faces in our region. Causes are no longer just national organizations that we click a button on the webpage and donate our annual allotment of donation money, though this is of course a great way to give back. When we look around our cities, we see the faces of people that have come upon hard times. I know that you see them.

But if you’re like me, you might like to know that you’re truly making a difference, and may have no idea who to give to.

Can I challenge you to make it meaningful? To you, and maybe even your family?

We can give to an organization or organizations that mean something to us, whether past or present.

For example, though I’ve never used the services of the YWCA, it has meaning to me because there are many times that I have been in a place where I’ve thought of an emergency shelter as an option. To give back one year, I learned that they have a list of needs on their website and I donated formula and diapers. I had no idea this was an item that was needed. I didn’t think about it simply because I don’t have children.

I was challenged once to put one thing that I didn’t need in a box each day for 30 days. I can’t even tell you how much joy it gave me to bring a box of items that I loved, but really didn’t need, to a local thrift shop. Thrift shops give back in big and meaningful ways to the community, and the world. They even gave me a gift in return, a punch card with a discount for the next time I shopped there. I craft, thrift stores are gold mines for items to craft with.

When I was in high school, our grade 9 French class decided to give a family Christmas. This meant buying all the gifts and food for the family’s Christmas. There are a few organizations that do this. I will never forget this experience.

There are many people in need of winter items, hats, scarves, mittens, that you can buy at the dollar store, or donate from home, as well as gently used coats and boots. This is a great way to teach kids to give.

I have been blessed to be a part of a motel ministry that provides food, clothing, and support to those living in the many residential motels in our region. I had no idea that many of our motels are no longer for tourists. The people who live there need everything. Stop by, take a look.

Books can be donated to many organizations, if you happen to like to read, and wanted to pick up a few extra for someone else.

And of course, there are the beautiful red kettles, of an organization that works tirelessly to combat many things, but hunger certainly being an important one of them.

The more I learn about what the organizations in our region do on a daily basis, the more inspired I am to give, based on what has direct meaning to me, or what might be an immediate need in our region right now, such as shelter and a warm meal during the cold months.

If you can’t give money, give time, and vice versa. Be creative. There is something that you have that someone else needs, whether it is time, talent, or treasure.

There are people in need all around us.

Have a wonderfully blessed holiday season.

Start Somewhere

Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

Sana Shah (Brock University)

On Saturday October 28th, YWCA Niagara Region hosted the fourth Annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women. Since October is Women’s History Month, it seemed to be fitting to end the month on such a positive note. It was great to see a few men present in the crowd, who supported women’s rights and ability to lead in a rather male dominated community. I hope to see more men in the future at the summit because gender inequality does not only concern women; it is a larger problem concerning the Canadian community as a whole.

Ashley Callingbull was the keynote speaker for the summit, who became the first First Nations and Canadian woman to win the Mrs. Universe title in 2015. She is devoted to supporting the community. She shared with the audience her struggling childhood, and how she as a First Nations woman has to work extra hard to make achievements. Shining light on this issue, she further explained how she experienced racism from a young age. She brought attention to cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. However, most importantly she reminded the crowd that you can do anything you want to do, and be anything you want to be, and that the only person holding you down is yourself. So let us hold on to that and try to change the gender divide one-step at a time.

Once Ashley wrapped up her address, we had an opportunity to attend a workshop from a choice four, which included; Leadership in parenting, Women in politics, Breaking barriers in mental health, and Business and entrepreneurship.

I attended the Women in politics workshop, which focused greatly on the Niagara region. It was led by Elizabeth Zimmerman, Mishka Balsom, Debbie Zimmerman, Joyce Morroco, Carol Stewart-Kirkby, and Shirley Cordiner. We discussed as a group about Niagara’s democratic deficit in women’s representation in local politics. There is a link between low female voter turnout and low female representation in politics. After the workshop we took a short break and had a choice of attending another workshop from the following options; Aboriginal community justice, Conquering barriers to success, Decolonizing language, Disability leadership, Fair trade, Race and racism, Self-care for caregivers, Success in a male dominated industry, Women in STEM, and Volunteerism

I chose to attend the workshop on Aboriginal Justice, let by Celeste Smith. She spoke about the over-representation of Aboriginal youth as incarcerated individuals, regardless of Aboriginal people making up only 4% of the Canadian population. Smith is the director of Three Fires Community Justice Program, which is a diversion program that provides healing for Aboriginal youth and adults charged with criminal offence. It focuses on the community taking responsibility of the individuals that is at fault. The program begins with the belief that everyone is worth something.

Based on the two workshops I attended, I only wish I could have attended all of them, as they were quite insightful. The summit came to a closing with a discussion panel about women in politics; with a focus on voting, and closing remarks from Elisabeth Zimmerman (Executive Director of YWCA Niagara Region).

This summit was a Call to Action, a call to show up, take action and support one another. In order to make a large impact we need to start small, we need to start somewhere. Even the women’s rights movement started with only a handful of likeminded people who eventually got women the status of being ‘people’ in Canada and the right to vote. It may not be as bad as back then, but we are still far from being on the same playing field and having the same representation. As I end this piece, I encourage, just like most of the presenters at the summit, to save the date OCTOBER 22ND 2018 to go out and vote in the municipal elections. Have your voice heard. We can do anything we want; we just need to start somewhere.

Blogger Talk

Donna

As students prepare for graduation, growing to a new phase in their lives, what advice would you give them that may help with this process?

Be fearless, keep your options open, and always choose in favour of your passions.  I believe you can do anything.

June has us celebrating Fathers, what sage advice or words of wisdom, has your Dad given you, that you want to share?

A man of few words, my Dad taught me that you never have to raise your voice to be heard.  Always be humble and kind.

What is/was your relationship with your Father like?  If you could change one thing, what would it be? 

My relationship with my Dad was one of ease, love and humour.  The only thing I would change is, he’d still be with us.

The month of June always brings such promise of renewal, what is your spring/summer renewal ritual?  Do you have one?

As soon as the sun warm the earth, you will find me wandering the Garden Centres.  Inhaling deeply to fill my soul, and buying way too many plants for the small gardening space I have.

Share with us something new that you have tried, are doing or embarking on this spring/summer.

Tried Edamame, and now I am hooked!  So delicious.

Valerie

As students prepare for graduation, growing to a new phase in their lives, what advice would you give them that may help with this process?

The best advice I can give to students getting ready to graduate is, explore. Explore your community, country, yourself or the world. Know that this is your life and you do not have to conform to societal expectations. One of the best parts of graduating is knowing you can take some time to discover yourself. Set goals, make a plan and do things for you. It is through self care and exploration that you will discover your place in the world. Never underestimate the value of exploring your own community, understanding where you are can help lead you to where you want to go.

Do you believe students graduating today in any field of study have been prepared for the future, for a career in their field?

Continue reading

Closing the Gender Gap

NIAGARA VOICES: Gender gap must close in the workplace

This article, written by Laura Ip first appeared in the St. Catharines Standard on Friday, March 17, 2017.

As a vocal feminist in Niagara, one of the things I hear repeatedly is that women need to do more to help other women; women need to stop saying and doing awful things to each other.

Frankly, whilst I consider this to be one of the less troublesome things in the quest for equality, I do agree that it is a problem. Again, one of the smaller ones, but a problem nevertheless.

When I began my career, I immediately found that women a generation ahead of me were difficult to collaborate with, especially if they were suspicious of my ambition. I have never gone into a job thinking that I would or even could take the job of someone who was my manager or who might otherwise be a mentor to me, but this suspicion persisted. Too often, I heard friends and colleagues say, “She’s threatened by you.”

As I have continued in the career world, even with the turns my own career has taken, I am now hearing women a generation behind me say similar things. They talk about women who are further into their careers or who are in leadership positions not wanting to help them. I know how frustrating this can be and how isolating it can feel, so I have made a commitment to myself and to women around me to take women with me.

I have a colleague who, through her position at YWCA Niagara Region, has just taken her first career-related job. My job and hers overlap quite considerably and she is eager to learn not just about all that we do at the YW, but also about the communications and fundraising roles. I take her to meetings, I encourage her to bounce ideas around with me and I try to introduce her to other community members who might be of assistance to her when her contract with us is up. She likely could do my job, but I don’t see her as a threat.

There is another young woman who I have met through community projects that I work on who has an interest in getting involved in politics. Though I never won an election, I learned a lot during three campaigns, particularly as the only woman running in a ward twice. She and I discuss what she might encounter and how to deal with it, as well as various municipal issues and what she might consider doing once she starts to campaign.

In keeping with the Be Bold for Change theme of International Women’s Day, I will continue to ensure that I do what I can to take other women with me.

What will you do to take other women with you?

And, men, this isn’t just for the women to do. You can help as well. What will you do to ensure that women are being seen and heard and have opportunities to participate the way their male counterparts are participating?

You might consider taking a junior woman to a sales meeting and not tasking her with taking notes. When you see an all-male panel for an event, suggest the organizers add a woman you know has the expertise. If a female colleague is speaking in a meeting and someone interrupts her, say, “I’d really like to hear more about what Sarah was saying.”

These are easy things all of us can do to close the gender gap in our workplaces and the wider community. It’s easy to bring women with us.

IWD Q & A

I am very lucky to have so many strong, amazing and empowering female friends. We have had many discussions about how we don’t really feel affected by gender inequality because we grew up feeling equal to men and we have always been very independent. I have one amazing friend, Kelsey, who ended up becoming a tool and die maker, and is one of the only women not in an administrative role at the company she works for. She’s been featured in newspapers and magazines about her success in the field, and is a role model for other women to start a career in the trades. Our friend group always jokes about her success and badassness (that’s a word), and her ability to do, well, anything. She had graduated 2 different programs with honours and awards by the time most of us had graduated university. When we were talking about International Women’s Day/Month at the last Blogger’s Meeting, I immediately knew I wanted to interview her about her journey in the tool and dye field.
Amazingly, she had been asked to instantly fly down to South Carolina to do some work at another factory. She was working non-stop down there and still found the time to answer these questions for me, so thank you!

D: So what the heck do you do for a living?

K: I am a red seal certified tool and die maker, I work for a company that builds the dies for many different companies such as Ford, GM, BMW, Mercedes etc. I work as a lead hand delegating jobs, fixing issues with the dies, making sure we meet the customers’ timelines, and provide a die that will make a dimensionally and cosmetically correct car part. My company often builds dies that produce more complicated parts and the ones consumers actually see, such as the body side, tailgate, and doors. Tool and die is a hard trade to describe to people, but there’s my attempt explaining it in one sentence.

Abandoned Conveyor Belt by darkday

 

D: Well you did a pretty good job at explaining it, in my opinion. Did you always want to be a tool and die maker, or what did you want to be when you grew up, as a child?

K: I remember as a child saying I wanted to be a veterinarian, often a popular choice with kids who like cats and dogs but I never obsessed over a certain career.

D: So what did you do after high school?

K: In high school I used the co-op placement to work at a bakery, and that experience helped me decide to go to George Brown College for Baking and Pastries Arts. I remember in grade 11, really having no idea what I wanted to do but knowing university wasn’t right for me, so I picked baking as a career path.

D: [Sidenote: Kelsey then became the friend we would force to make cakes for us when we had a party or holiday coming up.] So what made you want to change careers?

K: I found the culinary trade relies heavily on your passion for the work, and often the desire to open your own business. I enjoyed baking but you work long days, often really early mornings, and you have to work holidays. I never really got a chance to enjoy my time off, or get time off to begin with. I knew I would never open my own bakery and I felt the job would never allow me to be financially independent. All the job postings I was seeing for bakers were often lower paying with no benefits. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.

D: Okay, so you decided you wanted to do something different. What made you think of a tool and die worker?

K: I decided I didn’t want a career as a pastry chef, but I also didn’t know what I should do instead. My father works in the trades as an insulator and said he thought I would make a good millwright. That made me start looking into millwrights and possible schooling options. I discovered the Centre for Skilled Trades and Development in Burlington. They offered a Millwright/Tool and Die Pre-Apprenticeship Program affiliated with a company that would hire you depending on how the training goes. The program was also only 6 months, which was great because I wouldn’t have to take a long break from working full time. Based on the schooling, I decided I would become a tool and die maker (not a millwright) and was hired as an apprentice. I continued my training for 3 more years by going to Sheridan College one day a week while continuing to work. It was great because I wasn’t racking up any student debt (my tuition was only $400 a year) and received government grants from companies supporting the skilled trades.

D: What was your very first day on the job like?

K: The first day was extremely over whelming! No amount of classroom training can prepare you for, what looks like, such a chaotic environment. A production plant is fast paced with many moving elements. I could feel that eyes were on me. To make things worse, I didn’t have a proper work uniform yet so I felt really self-conscious walking around in my jeans since they are more form fitting than regular uniform pants.

D: Were you scared at all to work in a mostly male-dominated industry?

K: I feel like scared is the wrong term. I think I was just as nervous as anyone would be starting a new job, regardless of gender. I had no idea if and how I would be accepted. I honestly believe the men I worked with were just as nervous and worried that they might say something wrong or inappropriate to me. For the first couple months, I don’t think I had a genuine conversation or joked around with any of my coworkers. The conversation was often super formal or just filler talk about the job. It definitely became easier to bond with my coworkers when I got a new job at a different company that had more employees closer to my age.

It sometimes feels like high school, except I somehow ended up in the boys’ locker room.

D: What are you most proud of during your time in the tool and die industry?

K: My current role as a lead hand has come with a lot of responsibility, stress, and a strong feeling of pride. I am one of very few female tool and die makers and it’s even rarer for one to take on a supervisor type position. It is the most stressful and challenging job I have ever had, and that just proves to me what a smart decision I made with this career path.

D: What are some funny or crazy stories that you can share with us?

K: I have been in a fair share of strange, awkward, and funny situations at work; most times it becomes a good story to tell my friends and sometimes it’s something that really pisses me off. I can share that the men’s washroom is covered with graffiti and inappropriate writing on the walls. When a co-worker told me about that I was so confused because they were all working adults, I just didn’t get it. There was also a time when a mystery person was drawing penises all over the factory, and it got so bad that management had to get involved and start checking security cameras. It was so embarrassingly unprofessional and they never figured out who it was.

I remember at the first place I worked, there was this one line worker that wouldn’t stop asking me out. The first time he asked me, I politely said “no sorry, I have a boyfriend.” But he would still always ask to take me out to dinner! I would walk a different way around the shop to avoid him because it was always such an uncomfortable conversation. Eventually he quit or was fired, so I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Now, if anyone asks me out I just immediately shut it down. I have worked at my current company for so long everyone knows me and that I’m married and it’s not a situation I face anymore.

Boys Locker Room by Mari Gildea

Other than that type of thing, every now and then at the lunch table someone will be looking at their phone and they start laughing and pass the phone around to the other guys at the table. Then they stop and realize I am also at the table and they don’t know if they should pass the phone to me or not. I guess they don’t want to take the chance of potentially offending me. It sometimes feels like high school, except I somehow ended up in the boys’ locker room.

More recently, I found myself working down in the States fixing issues an assembly plant had with the dies we built them. The plant manager would go and talk to one of the guys who was down there working with me and asked him for timelines and the progress of the job. My co-worker paused and proceeded to point at me and say “I don’t know, go ask my boss.” Honestly, I find nothing really phases me any more. I really enjoy my job and the work environment. The job is awesome; not just the work and the financial benefits, but all the entertaining stories I get to tell my friends.

D: Tell me about one of your biggest accomplishments, or something you are most proud of.

K: I have had a lot of success in my career, (considering I have only been working in this industry for 6 years) and I am already a lead hand at my company. But, I am the proudest of the fact that I am able to inspire other woman to work in the trades, and breakdown the preconceived beliefs about women working in this industry. Volunteering with Skills Ontario and talking to high school girls about the many career options out there brings me great pride. I have had a couple different women tell me that my career story gave them motivation to pursue a future in the trades.

D: What does your husband think about your profession?

When we were first dating and I told him I was quitting the bakery to go back to school for a tool and die maker, he was confused. Mostly because he had no idea what a tool and die maker was, and secondly because he didn’t want me to stop making delicious cookies. Now that he gets what I do every day, he is really impressed and proud of what I have been able to accomplish. However, sometimes he can get frustrated with the amount of hours I work. There are times when I will work 10-12 hour days, 7 days a week and get home and immediately pass out on the couch. We have talked about balancing work and life, and how there will be times when I have to work those long days, or randomly go to the States for three weeks for a job. He knows how important my job is to me, and he’s the person I confide in when I had a bad day, when nothing goes right, and when I’m questioning my abilities. My career has also been beneficial to him: he doesn’t have to be the sole breadwinner in our household, and was able to take a lower paying position with better options for advancement because I could support us.

D: Thank you, Kelsey! You can add this blog post to your wall of newspaper and magazine articles about how amazing you are!

K: [Eye roll and laughs]

An Unlikely Feminist

feminism definition:  the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. … : the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

My parents raised four feminists.  My youngest sister Debi, older sister Darcy, and my older brother Gord…all feminists.  I’ve always thought of my Mom as a trailblazer, but looking at the definition, I now realize so was my Dad.  Reserved and quiet, he was my mom’s greatest supporter.

I am grateful for all the women that came before me and fought so hard for the equalities I don’t think twice of not ever having today.  Not to take anything away from them, I would also like to acknowledge the men that have also believed in equality, and to those that live it every day.

So I want to thank my parents for raising not three feminists (my sisters and I) – but raising four.  As my brother in turn is doing the same with his sons, and so the feminist movement grows, not just with our daughters, but with our sons.

Feminism is a great gift parents can mentor – for our daughters, and our sons.

IWD Reflection

I had the privilege and pleasure of attending multiple International Women’s Day Events throughout the region. I wish I could have attended them all. I can’t even describe the empowerment I felt while being surrounded by incredible, strong, brave, bold, and passionate women.

One of the events I was able to go to was the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce’s Women In Niagara Council’s International Women’s Day event on March 3rd. Club Roma was filled with brilliant minds. Everywhere I looked, there was an outstanding woman that I wanted to know.

The keynote speaker was Teresa Cascioli. I was thrilled to be able to hear her speak. I was torn between typing out all of the impactful things she was saying so I could tweet them, or just soaking up the moment and letting her words really resonate with me. I did a mixture and I’m still not sure which one would have been the best option.

Teresa said, “Prior to selling my business no one listened.” It was as though Teresa’s voice didn’t matter because she had yet to have a great accomplishment. She then asked the important questions and you could hear the room nod in agreement: “Why do women have to say it more often? Why do we have to say it louder? Why do we have to prove ourselves?”

One of the most important and reoccurring messages throughout the event was you have to be impatient for results.

The WIN council also presented Rosemary Hale with the International Women’s Day Award. I was so excited to hear her speech, I couldn’t even consider recording any notes. I watched as Rosemary accepted the award with grace and honour. She inspired us all with talk about her past being the first female dean at Brock University. She is now retired and loving it as she has time to be a strong advocate for arts, volunteer at Hospice Niagara, and continuing to write. When she brought into focus her mentor Nora who said, “Life is drama. Every minute of our lives is drama…a slice of drama.” The idea that drama can be a good thing and not just with an arts background. Taking to the Be Bold For Change theme, Rosemary emphasized just how important it is to start demanding results, and start demanding change. To really do something about what you are passionate about in order to make a difference. “It’s about loving your bold, showing your bold.”

Broadband’s 25th Anniversary Performance of Women in Music Benefit Concert for the YWCA Niagara Region happened this past Sunday. The event is to celebrate International Women’s day focusing on Women in Music.
It was amazing! Listening to the inspirational songs including one about Nellie McClung. If you’re interested in catching a little taste of what the music was like, check it out 
here. The positive and empowering vibes from the band and the attendees was refreshing. Hearing reflections of the past made me want to do more research and spend time thinking about women in our history who really have made a difference for us.

Thursday was actually International Women’s Day. I attended the Be Bold For Change event which happened at Gwen’s Teas. Although I showed up late and missed networking with some other attendees, I really enjoyed the event. It was nice to see people have an outlet to write down how they would be bold for change and why they identify as feminists. Everyone brought their own thoughts, opinions, and reasons for being there. The discussion around politics was insightful. It just clarified all the more how important it is to involve women in politics. These discussions are exactly why we need more events, more meetings, more conversation around what women really can do.

All of these events opened my eyes to so many things. They made me really think. “It’s about showing your bold,” ran through my mind for days. That’s when I realize, being bold isn’t just about what is outlined on the International Women’s Day website (although those are great pledges), it’s about finding what works for you. I did make the pledge to celebrate women’s achievements because I think successes need to be acknowledged. I still stand by that pledge. Earlier this year, I also made a promise to have my voice heard in a blog post for the Practical Feminist after the Women’s March in January. But now, after all of these events, I pledge to find my bold and use it to help women.

 

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Why I participated in the Women’s March

Nicki

My daughter asked me to write a blog post on why I participated in the Women’s March organized by the YWCA here in Niagara, which was in tandem with hundreds of marches around the world on January 21st.

While I talked about standing in solidarity with my American sisters, I want her to know I did it for her, I did it for the other women in our family, especially for my granddaughters.

Especially for my granddaughters.

I did it especially for my granddaughters because I don’t want them to experience the blatant discrimination I often experienced while growing up in the 70’s and on through the last forty years. I don’t want them to ever second guess their ability and how it measures up to a man. I want them to grow up feeling 100% equal to any man, period.

You would think that in the forty years since the second, third and fourth waves of feminism have gone past we would have seen real change… and yet we haven’t. There have seen small changes, girls and boys are able to compete against each other in sports, although we still have to make strides for women and men to compete against each other. There are men who take a more nurturing role in parenthood…at least in my circle of friends and family I’ve seen a more equal division of tasks. In Canada, women have choices when it comes to their body and whether she chooses to keep a baby or not, although for many in the United States this choice has been taken away or made much more difficult to access.

These changes are small and aren’t enough. Men still earn more money than women, even if they are doing the same job. Men still are promoted at a much faster rate than women. Men still don’t take on half of the family duties, leaving the majority of the household chores and child rearing duties to their female spouses. Men still feel it’s ok to tell a woman what to do with her body. Men still think women are able to give consent when they are passed out drunk.

The lack of change on these issues are often blamed on women for not standing up for themselves and speaking up about it. There are some women who blame other women for this lack of change instead of all of us looking at the systemic changes that need to happen. And for that, we need men to shut up and listen, and that may take some time.

I marched with millions of women because I want the women in my family, and all young women for that matter, to be able to stand up tall, to not question themselves, to love freely and to be unconventional. I don’t want my granddaughters to define themselves through traditional values, unless of course, they choose to themselves. I want to ensure that women’s equality progresses to the point where we can actually say we are truly equal, and I want to be around long enough to see this happen, for my daughter, my daughter in laws, and especially for my granddaughters. Because it is about time.

“Because it is about time.”

We have talked about equality for a long time. Generations of women and men have talked about it and I am getting a little impatient, especially for my granddaughters. (I used to say for my daughter, but I’ve given up on the notion that it will happen for her.)

I marched because I don’t want to see hard won fights regress. I marched because I wanted to wake up the silent majority, to make sure women’s issues are taken seriously. I march because I don’t want my granddaughters to ever be devalued by experiencing discrimination in any way.

International Women’s Day Events

This year’s International Women’s Day is Wednesday, March 8th, 2017. This day started in 1908 when 15, 000 women gathered to march in New York City with demands to have shorter working hours, increased wages, and the right to vote. It has since been “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women” (International Women’s Day website). The history around this day is incredible. You can find out more here.

But what is it all about this year? The theme for 2017 is #BeBoldForChange. What does that mean? You get to decided that for yourself. We may each have a different view of what needs to be changed and how to go about it. Even the website has a variety of ways we can create change for women. Through the website you can pledge how you will strive to be bold for change this year. The main points are:

  • I’ll change bias and inequality
  • I’ll campaign against violence
  • I’ll forge women’s advancement
  • I’ll celebrate women’s achievement
  • I’ll champion women’s education

Luckily, there are a few events that are happening in the Niagara region to celebrate women on this amazing day.

The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce’s Women In Niagara Council is putting on an International Women’s Day event on March 3rd which will have Teresa Cascioli as the keynote speaker. Tickets are $57.50 – $75 depending on if you are a member. The WIN council will also be presenting Rosemary Hale with the International Women’s Day Award.

 

On March 3rd as well, the Greater Fort Erie Chamber of Commerce is hosting it’s 12th Annual International Women’s Day Networking Luncheon at Cherry Hill Club. Tickets are $45 plus tax for members and $50 plus tax for non-members. The guest speaker will be Shannon Passero celebrating strength, perseverance, and power.

Broadband’s 25th Anniversary Performance of Women in Music Benefit Concert for the YWCA Niagara Region is happening on Sunday, March 5th from 4-7 pm at St. John’s Activity Centre. This event is to celebrate International Women’s day focusing on Women in Music. Tickets are $20 dollars with proceeds going toward the YWCA Niagara Region.

On the actual day, March 8th, Be Bold For Change event is happening at Gwen’s Teas. This will be a more affordable event happening in the evening to ensure that it is accessible to a variety of people. A $5 donation to the YWCA Niagara Region is encouraged. The focus will be on how attendees will #BeBoldForChange to close the gender gap.

If there are any events you are aware of that are not posted, please tell us! You can also let us know how you feel they went if you were able to attend one.

Tell us how you will #BeBoldForChange by tagging us on Twitter @YWCA_Niagara

Question of the Month

Question: Who is the most influential feminist?

Ellen

Now there’s a question that isn’t posed everyday. Where to begin? It’s like being asked who is the most influential politician, scientist, musician, painter, or author. If I said (and this is just off the top of my head) Winston Churchill, Einstein, J.S. Bach, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Shakespeare, my picks wouldn’t raise a brown. Even if they were highly subjective and indicative of geography and culture, as well as race, age, sexuality, ability, and class. I mean, they are all male, all white, and all European for starters. Why not Angela Merkel, Rosalind Franklin, Asha Bhosle, Frida Kahlo, and Toni Morrison?

So, who do I think is the “most influential” feminist? I can’t give just one answer or perhaps an answer to that question at all. I can say that any list I came up with would reflect my particular feminist politics and my knowledge as well as my ignorance. I can also say the thousands of women who pushed boundaries, risked their lives, and braved (and still brave, as the struggle continues) ridicule and persecution while pressing for political and social equality, are the “influential feminists”. I know many who have influenced me, but perhaps just as important are the many who are largely unsung, who by their words and actions—the way they have lived and are living their lives—have changed the culture and made my life with its rights and freedoms possible. Some of them are women I know or have known and who have helped raise me up and shape me: my familial forebears and contemporaries, and my friends, co-workers and bosses. All that said, I’m partial to the writing of bell hooks, and authors Marguerite Duras, Margaret Atwood, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, among others.

I owe a debt to many protofeminists who had the courage to live their lives the way they wanted to, as well as the leaders and worker bees of various feminist movements. I’m impressed by the the new feminist thought leaders such as Pussy Riot, the women who organized Idle No More, and all the women who took part in the Women’s March on Jan 21. Who do I think is the most influential feminist? How about all of them?

Slavica   

As a Women’s and Gender Studies student, I have come to realize that feminism is a very broad movement and to define an influential feminist as being more influential than others is by no means an easy task. As we are in the third, going into the fourth wave – i.e. the various stages of feminism – we are starting to look at intersectionality, where an individual’s various identities affect their experiences.

When we think of an influential feminist, we look at woman like Betty Friedan, bell hooks (her name is purposely not capitalized), or Kim Anderson. However, each one focuses on something different in their activism and literature because their lived experiences are all different. The experiences of a white, black, or indigenous women can’t be generalized as being the same regardless of the fact that they’re all woman because race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, etc. all play a role in their individual lives and how they look and experience the world.

However, to understand where feminists first appeared, who in my opinion have always existed, just feminism itself became a more mainstream movement, would be when women wanted the right to vote. In Canada, white women were allowed to vote in 1918, but this was only those whose husbands served in the war and it wasn’t until 1960 that Indigenous women were allowed to vote. THAT’S 42 YEARS LATER! Now it’s been 57 years since all women in Canada have been allowed to vote. That isn’t a long time when you look at the grand scheme of things.

The start to this RIGHT as we know it now as a Canadian citizen, started with only upper-middle class white women, who had a lot of time on their hands. They were known as the suffragettes and they were the “First Wavers” but to say they were the most influential feminists would be wrong. To identify a singular individual as being more influential in the movement in my opinion is a bad way to look at feminism because it assumes that one person is the face of all that is feminism but they are not.

To look at feminism is not to look at one individual or one particular group, because there isn’t one type of woman or one type of feminism. The suffragettes or the women in the Women’s Liberation Group, were all influential because without them fighting tooth and nail, women would not have the rights that they do today. I, in all honesty, can’t really give you an influential feminist because feminism itself is a growing process and no one person helped to make the movement what it is.

Blogger Talk – Self-Care

Candice

Who do you know that has “Self-Care” down to a fine art?  Please give them a shout out and share why you admire this skill.

I believe that self-care is a journey, and with this I believe it will always be a working progress and commitment as it looks different with each activity or life event that happens for everyone.  There may be some who have mastered self-care in the moments or at this time, but I believe it is never truly mastered.  So instead of giving a shout out to one person, I would like to give a shout out to everyone who has embarked on a journey of self-care and what that truly means to them, to those who are currently working through what that looks like, and those who have mastered it in the moments.

Who do you know that has “Self-Care” down to a fine art?  Please give them a shout out and share why you admire this skill.

I believe that self-care is a journey, and with this I believe it will always be a working progress and commitment as it looks different with each activity or life event that happens for everyone.  There may be some who have mastered self-care in the moments or at this time, but I believe it is never truly mastered.  So instead of giving a shout out to one person, I would like to give a shout out to everyone who has embarked on a journey of self-care and what that truly means to them, to those who are currently working through what that looks like, and those who have mastered it in the moments.

Flipside to question 2, who would you give the gift of the ability to provide “Self-Care” to themselves?  What would you like to see them do for themselves?

I can’t think of one particular person, if that makes sense.  If I could I would give the gift of the ability to provide “Self-Care” to everyone.  I would encourage and challenge everyone to take on the journey of self-care and really give themselves permission to see what that looks like and means for themselves.  I would do this with everyone because it is needed with everyone, it is impossible to give to anyone else unless we are first giving to ourselves or to be present in the moments of life without being present within ourselves.

Is there a difference between “Self-Care” and Self-Love”?  If yes or no, please explain further.

I believe that self-care and self-love are directly related and that you can’t have one without the other.  Self-love is loving yourself enough to take care of yourself and giving yourself permission to ensure that you have self-care in whatever way needed.  Without self-love you wouldn’t be able to explore the true meaning of self-care and what that means for you.

Good at “Self-Care”?  Have you always been?  If not, what changed?  Please share.

For years when I thought about self-care I thought about my self-care looking like spending time with my kids, or my husband or my family, or even having a hot bubble bath.  Recently, I have been given a different outlook on self-care and what that means to me.  This all started with a time where I was struggling emotionally and having difficulty balancing, when talking to one of my space holders about my concerns and where I was at my space holder looked at me and said those magic words “what do you do for you when things get tough?” I automatically started talking about these above things, mostly around my kids, spouse and family, she then asked me the same question again… I didn’t get it at first until she explained to me that self-care is about filling my own cup up, and though these pieces are strategies used for self-care it is so much more than that.  For me in that moment I realized that for years I was trying to fill my own cup up through others without looking at what I really needed in those moments in order to care for myself in mind, body and spirit.  Since then I have dedicated myself to figuring out what my self-care needs to look like, and though I don’t think this will ever be mastered it is a working progress.  Since this time I have been able to realize that there are moments where I absolutely need to fill myself back up through the happiness of others however, there are also moments where I need to allow myself the freedom to do the opposite.  I need to give myself permission to leave the house without having the expectation of being a mom, wife, daughter, sister, Social Worker and just walk, just walk to clear my head without any interruptions.  I need to give myself permission to rest when my body says it needs to rest, and to have all emotions needed in those moments without guilt and shame.  I have realized that on overly tough days my self-care does look like a quiet bubble bath, but with that I also realized the importance in giving myself permission to have a good cry if it’s needed.  So in closing, I believe that self-care comes in so many forms and what I have learned for myself is that it depends on where the need for self-care is, but regardless of the need the important thing that I learned and continue to practice is to give myself permission to do the things I need to do for me to care for myself so that I can care for others.

Please share your tried and true “Self-Care” strategy that anyone reading this blog post could also do.

As stated above my tried and true self-care strategy is continuously in the works.  But with that it is loving myself enough to give myself permission to fill my own cup up whenever and however it’s needed without guilt and shame.

Donna

Finish this sentence:  The one thing for myself I would love to do but can’t seem to do it is ____Travel

Reflexology as my own business.  I see it in my future and I am taking baby steps to get there.

 

Please share your tried and true “Self-Care” strategy that anyone reading this blog post could also do.

Positive thoughts, in relation to the law of attraction.  I create positive energy around myself, and that is what comes back to me.  Try it, it really, really works.

What is your most luxurious “Self-Care” indulgence that you couldn’t possible do without?  Please share.

It is a combination, through trial and error that I have established to feed my soul: My monthly massage, practicing yoga, long bubble baths complete with scented candles, journaling and family game nights.  These are my must-have.  

Power of Being a Girl 2017

Power of Being a Girl

YWCA Niagara is hosting it’s 11th Annual Power of Being a Girl conference within the region.
Many events lose interest of the community and participants after that many years, but this conference remains popular. Why? Maybe it has to do with the powerful impact it has on the grade 10 girls from all over the region who participate.

Throughout the years, the event has touched many lives. One of the speakers in previous years explained that at one of the conferences, some of the girls came up to her individually to self-disclose issues they have felt including thoughts of suicide and the difference the day had made to them. 12 girls that day felt empowered enough to find positives in their lives, things to look forward to as well as to speak about it. That’s some of the differences these events can make.

As huge a success as that story is, Power of Being a Girl has also inspired girls to discuss body image issues, negative feelings of loneliness. The discomfort most girls face during the ups and downs of teenage years. Some students have said:

“I felt alone and isolated. I was living in everyone’s shadow,” she said of the difficulties she once had but has since overcome. “Now I want to help others get out of the shadow and let their light shine.”  – St. Catharines Standard

More participants said:

“Your skin is the costume. Your personality is the beauty,” she says.

“If you keep trying to be what society thinks is perfect, you’ll never experience peace.

“You’re always chasing.” – St.Catharines Standard

The conference gives girls a safe place where they can check in with themselves and realize they are not alone in their feelings. They have the chance to ban together and encourage confidence in each other.

“At first, I was really nervous. And then I realized, we’re all girls here,”

“Everyone has flaws. They have to learn to love those flaws. They have to learn to love themselves.”

“Really, really good. Made me proud to be a woman.”

“My favourite part was knowing that I’m worth something and finding strengths I never thought I had.”

This year’s conference speaks to healthy relationships. We have no idea what’s truly in store for these participants in terms of revelations but we sure look forward to exploring them. If it’s anything like the last ten years, it will be a huge success, change the lives of so many.

#POBG2017

Let’s Do Something, Not Nothing

101 Men: An Innovative Approach to Ending Gender Violence

By Inspectable Todd Gilmore

November 18th, 2016, St Catharines, Ontario.

Let’s Do Something, Not Nothing.

If this event was called Men 101 it might be a training event for women to better understand why some men exhibit harmful behaviour towards women. We learned during the training that women have always taken a leadership role in ending gender violence so that’s an event that’s probably already occurred many times over. Women’s leadership on this issue was easy to see at the event itself. Behind almost all the display tables of community organizations that work to end gender violence, stood a woman. As we also found out during the training, if this event was called Men 101 it could realistically be a training program that explains why not enough is being done by men to end gender violence even after men participate in this training.

I believe the group of men I was with at 101 Men Event in St Catharines, Ontario will show courage and do something, not nothing.

I’ll start with this article.

Let’s be clear the main problem when it comes to gender violence is men abusing women.  This abuse can take a number of forms including verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual. To end gender violence we learned this has to be a “men’s issue” and men in positions of power and influence, like the men with me at the 101 Men Event, need to step up. And punch up, not down, if required.

We learned that the best place to influence or intervene is by attacking language, attitudes, beliefs, and aspects of our culture that support abusive behaviour towards women or make it seem acceptable. By the time the gender violence occurs it’s too late and we’ve missed a ton of opportunities to address the root causes of gender violence that are so pervasive around us. It can be as simple as using active instead of passive language. Passive language says “how many women were raped?” while active language says “how many men raped women?”. You can easily see that using passive language takes men out of the equation when the opposite should occur and the men involved should be held accountable.

“Passive language takes men out of the equation.”

General Marsden of the Australian military said it best when he made a statement of action while dealing with inappropriate men’s behaviour in his own organization.  He said “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

On Friday November 18th, 2016 I spent 8 hours with 101 Men, community leaders from across Niagara and the surrounding regions who were there because they want to take action. I saw an outstanding group of men who were there to make a change, to not walk past, to take ownership of a men’s issue and to create higher standards in their sphere of influence in order counter gender violence.

Join me in doing something, not nothing.

(Insp Todd Gilmore, OIC RCMP HNRD)

Blogger Talk – Inclusiveness

Donna

What is your response to those in positions of power not leading with inclusion? 

Donna-2

In my opinion, exclusion is fear, so my response to those in positions of power is… Stop being fearful, get yourself curious and educated.  A difference of opinion,  lifestyle, physical ability or religious belief isn’t something that you have to fear, or control to align with your own values or ability.  Everyone has something of value to bring to the table…..and it is the leaders responsibility to have all voices heard, to really listen and to lead without fear of including all voices.

Can ensuring “inclusiveness” be taught, or is it a character trait? 

Both, as long as a person remains curious, they will seek out or take advantage of the opportunity to learn more….and therefore it becomes easy to include everyone.  Perfect example – when a parent takes the time to demonstrate to their child that a person with a visible disability isn’t someone to be feared, children are quick to engage in conversation and inter-action too.  If you choose to believe that your way is the only way to think, feel or live….then that is the legacy you leave your children, unless they are curious themselves.

One small change you are committed to making or have made to live more “inclusively”. 

I admit, I sometimes struggle overcoming my past experiences so that I don’t paint everyone with the same brush, but I am committed to being curious and to educate myself.  With this commitment I have experienced such richness of friendships, adventures and fun.  I am also committed to sharing my values and beliefs in hopes that I can help someone else be less afraid, and more inclusive.

Ellen

What does the word “inclusiveness” mean to you?

I think I approach it from how it is applied or what it looks like. For example, I have two nephews who are on the autism spectrum. If they had been born, say 50 or 60 years ago, the severity of their disabilities might have meant they spent their lives in a regional centre, for the most part, cut off from the community. As children, they instead grew up in “inclusive” environments, going to the local school and attending classes with the help of EAs. They were sent to school daily until they were legally no longer eligible. In other words, as a society, we made some attempt to meet their needs in a somewhat inclusive manner for about 21 years (although, going to a public school doesn’t mean they were entirely “included”). Now, as young men, they rely on their parents, a patchwork of temporary caregivers, day centres, and camps, to give their lives pattern and focus. I wouldn’t exactly call their daily existence socially inclusive, and the impermanence of their situation makes it less so. Some day, their parents will no longer be able to care for them and unfortunately, there aren’t many readily available options for the kind of inclusivity that gives their lives heart and meaning. As a society, we determined 20-or-so years ago that large institutions were cruel, expensive, and too “jail-like”. So we closed them. But we haven’t offered much (in scale particularly) to replace them. Group homes are difficult to access, and truly inclusive L’Arche-like communities are few and far between.

But this is just part of my difficulty with what we call “inclusiveness” (and really addresses just one aspect, or area). People mouth the words all of the time. They say things like “we are all equal” but forget that in many cases, we can’t have equality without equity and inclusiveness.

“A child with a disability (or anybody for that manner) cannot be equal unless we give equal access to resources.”

Within my family, among other things, equity means making the immediate environment comfortable for my nephews at family gatherings (allowing them private space, ensuring that the sensory experience isn’t too overwhelming, providing food that they can eat and enjoy, being aware of our possible impact on their comfort, etc.)

I have a friend who has a child with a spectrum disorder. When she hosts family get-togethers, she asks that people come early in the day so that her child is well rested and at their behavioural best to enjoy company. Despite this repeated request, for many years, various members of her family arrived when it suited them—hours late. This made it impossible for her child to be focused when they visited. In other words, despite claiming to be accepting of the child’s disability, her family would not make any accommodations to their own lives and behaviours so that there could be equity—so the child could function well and be proud of their behaviour. And that’s kind of what inclusivity is: including people who are otherwise excluded or marginalized, allowing them to be themselves and not creating situations where they are so challenged that their “differences” become obvious “difficulties” that others have to “overlook”. If you can’t budge an inch on your own agenda, you aren’t being inclusive and equitable.

Have you ever experienced exclusion based on gender, race, or for another reason? Please share

Most women would be lying, oblivious, or choosing to overlook things if they said they have never experienced exclusion based on gender. Now, people may argue what constitutes gender exclusion, because sometimes it isn’t so blatant. But I have felt excluded based on gender and I certainly have felt the exclusion from specific economic opportunities and rewards based on my gender. I also feel class exclusion is something we avoid looking at in Canada. People (and politicians in their rhetoric) venerate “the middle class” and seek to preserve its sensibilities and ideals (if not always its income). We seem to lose our sense of what is “working class” with this emphasis on middle class nationhood. It is seen as something shameful or inferior (including intellectually inferior). Yet we know that many incomes and expectations are going down, not up. I think this encourages more class exclusion as people cling to their beliefs that “class” is natural, not created, and somehow reflects abilities and effort instead of luck and pre-existing privilege.

Can ensuring “inclusiveness” be taught, or is it a character trait?

I would say “character traits” are largely taught or learned. If they weren’t, then we would all be self-absorbed jerks “by nature”. Inclusiveness, and what it means, must be reinforced. It isn’t just one thing, it’s many things. For one thing, we need to recognize our biases and continually question and check them, and this includes our behaviours and language.