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'There is still so much work to be done to achieve both gender equality here in Nogojiwanong/Peterborough'

Peterborough is marking International Women's Day on Friday, March 8th with an afternoon rally and storytelling event in the evening.

While there have been advancements through the decades, there's still a way to go towards achieving gender equality locally, says Sam Rockbrune of the Kawartha World Issues Centre (KWIC).

Rockbrune hopes International Women's Day will shine a light on this issue and others, and the events KWIC is planning in collaboration with Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre (KSAC) and their community partners will bring community members together.

"According to the Government of Canada's website, International Women's Day is a global day to recognize and celebrate women's and girls' social, economic, cultural, and political achievements," Rockbrune said.

The description states that International Women's Day "is also a time to raise awareness of the progress made towards achieving gender equality and the work remaining to be done."

"That last part is so important — both KWIC and KSAC and our community collaborators are organizations that recognize that there is still so much work to be done to achieve gender equality here in Nogojiwanong/Peterborough," Rockbrune said.

"There are many community members who think that gender equality is already achieved, and we don't need to worry about it anymore here. However, we know that there is still a long way to go before we will achieve gender equality in our community."

During the past few years, KWIC has heard stories of gender inequality shared by women, two-spirit, non-binary and gender non-conforming people. The areas where inequality is experienced range from Indigenous rights to 2SLGBTQ+ issues to accessing safe health care to equal work and pay opportunities specifically in Nogojiwanong/Peterborough.

"If we are going to achieve gender equality in our lifetime, we need everyone to get involved. Gender equality is interconnected with so many other big issues such as climate change, the cost-of-living crisis, colonialism, et cetera," Rockbrune said.

"Having an International Women's Day event for everyone in our community that is free, accessible, open to all, and doesn't require any previous experience or knowledge is a big step forward."

In the evening on March 8, local storytellers Aanya Singh, Jaida Ponce, and Kait Dueck will share their stories of gender equality, inspiring inclusion, and community. There will also be opportunities for community members to share their stories before, during, and after International Women's Day 2024.

"It should be a great evening of community building and connecting," Rockbrune said. "We are continuing to release details, but registration is open now and more details can be found on our website."

Rockbrune said this year's global theme, "Inspire Inclusion," is very fitting for 2024.

"In Nogojiwanong/Peterborough and around the world, we've seen (and) recognized a need to come together and share space and stories. Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication and a core part of being human. Stories are what bring us together, as a community and across generations," Rockbrune said.

"There is a lot of division in our community right now and we are hoping that by centering inclusion and focusing on storytelling we will bring community members together to recognize that we have a lot in common. Over the past few years, a lot of community members have become isolated, and we are hoping to create an opportunity for us to connect and reach out to one another."

The events are free and accessible. Prior to the storytelling evening event, there will be a downtown rally and march from noon to 1 p.m. The rally starts in the Peterborough Square courtyard with opening drumming and will proceed north along the sidewalks of George Street to Confederation Park, across from city hall.

At city hall, located at 500 George St. N., the International Women's Day declaration will be read, city councillor Joy Lachica will share a few words, and a poem from Peterborough's current poet laureate, Ziysah von Bieberstein, will be delivered.

The storytelling event is from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Peterborough Public Library, located at 345 Aylmer St. N. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. The event will also be accessible online through Zoom.

Hosted by Simal Iftikhar, the beginning of the evening will feature the Raging Grannies and an opening drumming from Janet McCue.

Following the three local storytellers' presentations, there will be a communal activity and a closing poem by Indigenous spoken word artist Peterborough's previous poet laureate Sarah Lewis.

Registration is encouraged and free. For more information about the International Women’s Day event and to register, visit www.kwic.info/international-womens-day-2024.

Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, KawarthaNOW