Self-love and self-defence taught at Women’s Week

International Women’s Week was celebrated by the UTM Women’s Centre for the second year at UTM last week. The celebration’s  theme was “inspiring change”, with different subthemes for each of the six days of festivities.

The week kicked off last Monday with an exhibition that explored perceptions of beauty. Set up in the  Meeting Place, the fair offered activities organized by the UTM Health & Counselling Centre, Career Centre, and the Women’s Centre. Among other activities, attendees were invited to write down positive qualities of their bodies and to identify successful women in photographs.

“We wanted the theme of the fair to be about seeing yourself as beautiful,” said the Women’s Centre’s marketing coordinator, Zoë Adesina. “It’s a nice way of promoting self-love.”

The second day included a movie marathon of feature films related to the day’s theme, “not your fairytale ending”. The marathon includes Brave, Precious, and Bend It Like Beckham.

“We like these films because they portray women differently [from media stereotypes] as real, actual women,” said Adesina.

Two short films produced by the Women’s Centre were also shown at the screening.

As part of the week’s activities, UTM’s Campus Police hosted an information session to help students ensure their safety on and off campus. The Wednesday session included a self-defence tutorial by Corporal Bobbi-Jo Duff.

“The purpose [of the event] is for women and men on campus to feel confident, to know that you can be safe in any situation, as long as you have the knowledge, skills, and tools to use,” said Duff.

Agata Ambrozy, a third-year CTEP student who participated in the event, stressed the value of the workshop.

“We should take use of our resources to get knowledge about how we can help ourselves and defend oursel[ves] in situations when they do come across,” said Ambrozy.

As part of the week’s programming, the Women’s Centre also hosted a conference attended by about 20 female students, who discussed the challenges women face in the workforce, including sexism and wage inequity.

Ontario’s pay equity commissioner, Emanuela Heyninck, who was the conference’s featured guest, said as part of her speech, “Young women graduating today may not appreciate that there are a lot of biases that act as barriers to women in the workforce, and one of the goals of [the conference] was to raise that awareness.”

The conference “made me feel more empowered as a woman,” said fourth-year student Rebecca Dantes.

The week’s festivities concluded with a charity dinner hosted on Saturday evening to raise funds for the Power to Girls Foundation, a charity based in both Mississauga and Ghana that works to promote leadership skills in young girls. The organization’s founder, Aisha Addo, spoke at the dinner, along with CampUS project manager Jacqueline Benn-John, and Joan Simalchik, a professor and program coordinator with UTM’s Department of Women and Gender Studies.

“The response from those that have attended our events has been very positive,” said Adesina. “We want to inspire others to see issues and make changes in small and big ways.”

International Women’s Day has been celebrated internationally since the early 20th century and in the West since the 1970s.

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