St. Marys Friendship Centre hosts International Women’s Day event - Grant Haven
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St. Marys Friendship Centre hosts International Women’s Day event

St. Marys Friendship Centre hosts International Women’s Day event

By Wendy Lamond
On March 7, the Friendship Centre held its annual International Women’s Day event with more than 200 people in attendance to listen to three guest speakers.


Pauline White, senior services wellness coordinator with the town, welcomed the crowd with an acknowledgment and thank-you to those who came before us, as well as remembrance to the late Sheila Greason by recognizing all her volunteer work.


The first speaker of the day was Frances Taylor. Taylor is a registered nurse and has been a group leader for the seniors’ mental health team for over five years. She talked to the crowd about aging, mental health and wellness.


In Canada, one in five are living with mental illness or dementia. Depression and anxiety are most common in older adults, especially in women, however they tend to use the services available more often than men.


Taylor’s message to the group was to discuss positive ways to live with mental-health issues such as managing diet, taking appropriately prescribed medication, exercising, and viewing mental health as a balance of overall wellbeing.


The second speaker of the day was Jenn Parsons, the food logistics manager from the Local Community Food Centre in Stratford. Parsons discussed the importance of International Women’s Day and gave the group a reminder there are many women in the world whose voices are not being heard.


She also discussed the importance of tackling the root causes of food insecurity such as poverty, exclusion and injustice. The Local Community Food Centre has many programs for residents of Perth County. Some of those programs include the Boost Your Brain Brunch with the Alzheimer Society of Perth County, a community connections program that links people to other needed support groups, and programs geared toward Indigenous residents.


The Local also host kitchen-skills programming for families and children and provide free menstrual products at various locations across the county. On the first and third Thursday of the month, the local hosts its Nourish Market at the United Church in St. Marys.


Single moms tend to be the most vulnerable when it comes to food security. Parsons remembers a mom coming in to participate in a kitchen-skills class and was so happy to be provided vegetables as she didn’t usually have the chance to have any herself so she could feed her children.


The centre promotes food as a basic human right and works toward alleviating poverty through low-cost markets, community building and community meals.


The final keynote speaker was Anne Innes. Innes was a delegate for the ACWW (Associated Country Women of the World) and attended the International Women’s Day 2022 event at the United Nations in New York. This was a dream come true for Innes who said it was incredible to see women and men of all races and dress huddled together in deep conversation.


The purpose of the United Nations is to keep peace around the world, improve poverty, create friendly relations, end hunger and promote respect for everyone’s rights and freedoms.


One of the first things that caught Innes’ eye was the 193 flags of all the members of the UN. The building itself is very high security and getting a grounds pass was as precious as a passport. Some women had literally risked their lives to attend the event so their voices could be heard.


Innes was able to see what most of the chambers in the building looked like. There are translation booths and six different languages that can be heard through the headphones. They are instructed not to take pictures of other delegates and not to have their pictures taken for security reasons.


Most of the topics discussed involved gender inequality and gender violence. Innes learned 83 per cent of women have a cell phone, 58 per cent have access to the internet and 38 per cent have experienced online violence, but many more will never report it. There are still three billion women not online because of lack of access. In some countries, women are not allowed to have a bank account and in one country the government will give a prize to any parents that put their girls in school.


Another topic discussed by the Ukrainian delegation at last year’s UN event was the number of landmines that remain from past conflicts in 60 countries and injure or kill innocent women and children. There was a Ukrainian mother who shared that she tapes a coin to her son’s shoe before he leaves for school so, if there is an explosion, she will know if he triggered it.


Women’s rights have come a long way however there is still so much that needs to be done. Though all three speakers touched on varying messages, all are important topics that affect everyone. International Women’s Day is a great time to view all we have accomplished and what we can do to help each other.

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