UNACTO celebrated International Women’s Day on 19 March, at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. The event, organized by the Youth and Education Committee, focused on the UN agenda of attaining 50-50 gender parity by the year 2030 and called to accelerate gender parity across all arenas of life.
The event opened with a keynote address on gender-based violence by Kevin Vowles from White Ribbon, an organization that seeks to teach boys and men the importance of equality, and Elliott Bayev, representing the Fight Like a Girl Campaign, a women empowerment initiative focused on self-defence.
Vowles highlighted that, “Boys and men have the potential to end and to never remain silent on violence against women and girls.” Bayev emphasized that women are, “strong on their own, and it is vital to teach them to strengthen the existing models of strong women and assert their boundaries while being vocal about what makes them uncomfortable, as speaking up is a sigh of not giving consent to harassment or violence.”
During the second panel, Women in Business, discussing the significance of gender equality and parity, along with the added benefits to society was the Honourable Maria Minna, Member of Canadian House of Chambers. She touched upon the stark divide between men and women in the workplace and in her own experience within politics. Additionally, she advised women in the workplace to, “Fight the battle within—Women should have confidence in themselves that they have what it takes to be successful, as that is one of the primary reason women shy away from high-level posts, even when they are more qualified than most male counterparts.”
Sharing the panel, Sharon Chung, TD Manager of Talent & Diversity, spoke of the challenges she faced in her career and how organizations like TD can bring about the change the society needs. She encouraged women to be headstrong and confident stating, “You need to communicate what your aspirations are, and self-reflect on where you wish to see yourself in the next five years and aggressively work towards it. Think of how your male counter-part would behave if they were in your position as they have a more risk-taking approach which women need to adapt.”
The final panel, Women in Entrepreneurialism, featured singer and songwriter, Domanique Grant; motivational coach, Melissa Maher; book publisher, Felicia Pizzonia; graphic designer and music producer, Jacquila Rose; and blogger, Casie Stewart. Together, they spoke about their experience in each of their respective fields, sharing their tips on achieving success.
The event was also graced by three musical performances by Vanessa Elisa, Kathryn Lawler, and Domanique Grant.