Windsorites shout out the women who inspire them at Women's Day events

Abbey Gagnon with her mom, Karen.  (Submitted by Abbey Gagnon - image credit)
Abbey Gagnon with her mom, Karen. (Submitted by Abbey Gagnon - image credit)

Career was the focus of two International Women's Day events in Windsor on Wednesday, where women surrounded themselves with female role models and shouted out the women who inspire them.

Windsor Women Working With Immigrant Women (W5) held an IWD celebration that included the launch of its Virtual Reality Career Exploration Program.

The University of Windsor Womxn's Centre, meanwhile, organized a vendor fair that featured female entrepreneurs from the region showcasing their crafts, baked goods, vintage clothing and other products.

"The theme of this year's Women's Day is equity," said vendor fair organizer Kim Courtis.

"Women in business are just as successful and just as passionate about what they do as anyone else, so I wanted that chance to highlight that today."

Showcasing successful women in business also serves as an inspiration for students dreaming of starting their own enterprises, she added.

Mom 'a hero'

CBC News asked several people attending the event to name a woman who inspired them, and nearly all of them replied by citing a family member.

Many, including Abbey Gangon, pointed to their moms.

"She's taught me just how to be respectful of other people and really take the time to understand where other people are at," she said.

Submitted by Abbey Gagnon
Submitted by Abbey Gagnon

Veronica Beia called her mom a hero, and praised her for her thoughtfulness, caring, resilience and bravery.

"She is an immigrant who's worked really hard to provide for me and my siblings," she said, "and she's a really hard worker, and she just inspires me every day."

Supplied by Zule Ankamah
Supplied by Zule Ankamah

Zuleeats owner Zule Ankamah said her mother, Rose, and her oldest daughter, Celesta, were both major sources of inspiration for her.

"There wouldn't be Zuleeats without my daughter," she said.

"She said, 'Mom, this is what you love to do. Go for it.' … I go, 'It's going to be a lot of work.' She goes, 'We'll help you.' And they have stood true to their word. All my kids have been there to help me."

Exhibitor Sonu Abraham said it was her mother-in-law who inspired her after she started dating her now-husband in university.

Submitted by Ashton Curtis
Submitted by Ashton Curtis

"She is a single mom that's raised two kids," she said.

'"Something that she always taught me was to not let a 'No' stand in the way of my dreams. And I've truly taken it to heart because, you know, it's hard to hear sometimes, but it doesn't have to be the worst thing that you hear."

Third-year drama major Ashton Curtis told CBC that the most inspiring woman in his life is his aunt Tina, who is dedicated to self-improvement and reaching one's potential and who inspires him to work hard and never give up.

"If it wasn't for her influence, I probably wouldn't have started working out," he said.

Jessica Glazewski, who works in the university's Office of Sexual Violence, said she finds herself inspired by the women she works with every day.

Michael Evans/CBC
Michael Evans/CBC

"With that type of teamwork that we're able to have in our office, we're able to get a lot of work done and contribute to some really meaningful social change here on our campus." she said.

Over at the W5 event, W5 mental wellness worker Nada Hussein, said she felt inspired by the love and support women showed to one another at the organization.

"I'm a lot younger as a mental wellness councillor here at W5, but I'm always learning from the clients as much as they are learning from me too," she said.

Michael Evans/CBC
Michael Evans/CBC

W5's new Virtual Reality Career Exploration Program will give women a chance to try out 26 different occupations by getting near-hands-on-experience with them, according to Olivia Brezeanu, the organization's chief executive officer.

The program will be especially helpful for newcomers and youth, she said.

"Newcomers come from a different background," she said.

"In some countries, our Canadian occupations may not exist … or maybe the working environment could be quite different. And also for our local youth … a lot of local youth at an early age have to decide … which direction, which stream they have to go in. … Do they really have an idea what those occupations, those job titles, mean?"

The new program will allow youth and newcomers to have a better understanding of their career options, Brezeanu said.

"This is very inspiring," Brezeanu added, speaking of the launch event.

"It's great to see how many women, how many volunteers today gather together to support this program."