Written by Ashley Oakes 

Each year, March 8th – and the week in which it falls – provides an opportunity to take stock of our progress towards gender equality and to honour the contributions women have made and are making — in our personal lives, our communities, our country and internationally.

I am one of three daughters raised by a single mother, aunt and grandmother who taught me that I was capable, unique, important, and deserved respect and equality. Proud strong women were at the very core of my family structure; save for my grandfather, we were a family that consisted of three generations of exclusively women.

I was raised to believe that I could do or be anything, but that I MUST be able to stand on my own two feet and do it alone. It was instilled in me that I deserved the same as anyone else but that I had to work for it. My mom wanted more for her daughters than she had in her life.  She wanted us to have careers, goals, success, equality, and, yes, families as well.  She taught me this was possible and shouldn’t have to be questioned. She taught me that if I was to meet and marry, that my partner had to want these same things for me.  If he didn’t; he was not the right guy.  She was not afraid to tell me when I was with the wrong person and, although I rarely listened to her at the time, she was never wrong.

From February 1 through to March 7, Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society has been celebrating women locally, internationally and historically through the #HonourHer campaign and I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the wonderful women in my life; relishing in fond memories, lessons learned, and traditions handed down.

I am eternally grateful for the feminist values that I was raised with but sadly this is not the global norm. Enter: International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day was first observed on March 19, 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, when more than one million women and men participated in public events organized as part of a long standing movement for women to participate equally in society. Over the coming years, the movement spread across Europe and eventually crossed continental lines becoming a global day of recognition and celebration.

In 1977, the United Nations adopted a resolution designating March 8 as International Women’s Day and today IWD is a national holiday in many countries and celebrated in many more.

Every person – women, men and non-binary people – can play a part in achieving better outcomes for women around the world. Through celebration, collaboration and bold action we can all be involved in creating a gender inclusive world. International Women’s Day provides an opportunity for action and for us to raise our collective voices to demand greater change and equality for women.

On March 8, to mark International Women’s Day and the culmination of the #HonourHer campaign, Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society is hosting the annual fundraising event ‘Raising Our Voices, a Celebration of International Women’s Day through Song’ at Dusty’s Bar & BBQ in Whistler Creekside. The evening will feature an all-female lineup of more than 20 singers, songwriters and musicians, along with a silent auction and 50/50 raffle. Everyone is welcome (Minors welcome until 10pm) and entry is by donation at the door.  In addition, in partnership with Squamish Nation, Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society presents Great. Full. Circle. Taking place at Totem Hall between 11:30am-2:30pm on March 8, this event is an opportunity for you to meet five fantastic women in the Sea to Sky Corridor at a career panel and networking event. Join as at this free event for the opportunity to participate in a discussion with women in the corridor who are navigating the challenges and successes of work and business. Refreshments and treats will be provided.  For more information on this event visit the Great. Full. Circle Facebook page.

Join us at one of the above events on March 8 or share with us on the Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society Facebook page how you will be celebrating! As for me, I will be raising a toast to my sisters, mom, aunt, grandma and the many, many other women who influence and inspire me every day.