As the issue of gender inequality remains a major issue in B.C., International Women’s Day is an annual reminder to celebrate strong, progressive women not just on one day, but every day.
This year on March 8, the Terrace Women’s Resource Centre has made their focus on successful, inspiration women who #pressforprogress in their careers. The evening of music from Jim Ljungh, food and local art started at 6 p.m. at the Art Gallery, and was led by a blessing from elder Isabelle McKee.
Around 56 women and men sat in rows of chairs and listened to several female speakers including artist Cara Purita, RCMP Cst. Crystal Evelyn, advocate Gladys Radek and Debbie Letawski from the George Little House.
“If there are walls, climb them or break them down,” Cst. Evelyn said during her presentation. “We can do both.”
According to a recent report by Vancity Credit Union, B.C. women worry more than their male counterparts when it comes to their financial health. B.C. women earn $3,044 less in annual income than women in other provinces and territories, with 52 per cent of the 5,200 women surveyed saying they experience “extreme emotional stress” about their financial situation.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Simon Fraser University, Cara Purita said she felt selfish about pursuing her own dreams of making a career out of her art. She then pursued a degree in education, became an early primary educator, and had three daughters.
It was during her last pregnancy that she decided teaching was not the life she wanted for herself. Instead, she pursued what she loved most by participating in an art project by curator Nancy Pratt called Celebrate Your Breasts. The art project encourages women to accept themselves in a more positive light.
Now, her work aims to celebrate the lives of real women through various oil on canvas paintings.
“I needed to live my own life,” Purita said in her presentation. “While it’s a lot of work for little money, it is uniquely my own.”
Despite years of gradual improvements and movement towards gender equality, women across Canada typically earn less, have fewer career opportunities and occupy more jobs at the lower end of the pay scale than men. They are also more likely than men to find themselves living on a low income, especially in their senior years.
Kristine Ewald, co-founder of Transcend Fitness, created the women’s only fitness group to encourage women in Terrace to come together and inspire each other to live healthier happier lives. The gym grew from 40 to 400 members within its first year of operation.
“Often we’re told just to focus on whatever our bodies look like. Instead, we want to be strong in terms of health and support,” Ewald said. “We are always growing in our work and reaching out to the community to find ways to support women.
Sarah Phangura, 40, came to the event to show support for her friend and evening speaker Annette Rolleman, the city’s only music therapist. A wellness coach and mother to four children, Phangura said she feels hopeful about conversations surrounding gender equality.
“We seem to be at a crossroads of change,” Phangura said. “There seems to be more intention with the #MeToo movement, but unfortunately [the movement] comes through struggle. There’s still a lot to learn.”