Choose to Challenge: Okanagan women celebrate International Women’s Day amid pandemic

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International Women’s Day empowers the next generation of Okanagan women – Mar 8, 2021

Challenging gender bias and inequality is what this year’s International Women’s Day celebration is all about, and inspiring the next generation to be whoever and do whatever they want.

“We are really excited to celebrate International Women’s Day by connecting girls to women role models,” said Diamond Isinger, Girl Guides Canada provincial commissioner of B.C.

“We do that all year round but this weekend and on Monday to have opportunities for women to connect with women working in science, the trades and in government.”

Isinger says that the pandemic has been an opportunity to connect Girl Guides with more inspiring women from around the world than ever before.

Read more: Vernon celebrates International Women’s Day with conscious crafting

“The value of having those role models in their lives we know when women are working in diverse career paths, girls are far more likely to consider pursuing those career paths.”

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Bringing women from years past and present into the spotlight is something the Kelowna Museums Society is no stranger to.

One of the many women they are celebrating is Mary Thomas.

“She was a Secwépemc woman and even though she went to a residential school as a young child, a place where so much culture was taken away from the Indigenous people, she still spoke her Indigenous language and was still able to carry on her cultural traditions later in life, and she became a life-long teacher,” said Jen Garner with the Kelowna Museums Society.

And two women will be honoured in an online ceremony helped by the female leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and The World Sikh Organization of Canada on March 8 at 7 p.m. 

Read more: Peachland International Women’s Day celebration honours women and water

“When we were brainstorming about what it means to ‘Choose to Challenge’ we were thinking about women who have faced very significant barriers and they have chosen to fight back,” said Manpreet Multani, World Sikh Organization of Canada volunteer.

Religious rights advocate Amrit Kaur will receive an award for courage. She no longer qualifies for a teaching job in Quebec due to Bill 21, the religious neutrality legislation.

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“This law essentially made it so that she couldn’t be a teacher with the (turban) on and she didn’t want to compromise who she is and her religious values so she has taken legal action against this bill,” said Multani.

Vernon’s Sonja Gaudet, a gold medal-winning Paralympian and world champion curler will be presented with a humanitarianism award.

“I want to showcase that the focus needs to be on people’s abilities and not the disability and my wheelchair is my independence and it’s what gives me independence,” said Gaudet.

The award ceremony and other events happening in honour of International Women’s Day hope to empower women and push for gender equality.

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