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'We need to be empowered, respected and equal': What does International Women's Day mean to you?
March 8, 2022
Aileen Zangouei

March 8 marks International Women's Day, a tie that calls action to advance women's equality. It's also a day to celebrate achievements of women, on a social, economic, cultural, and political scale.

Here are seven quotes from women who are leaders, business owners and artists from or native to York region on what International Women's Day means to them:

Jerisha Grant-Hall, chairperson of Newmarket African Caribbean Canadian Association

"It is important to recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day because it provides a platform for action, collaboration, positive change and empowerment. Change, however, has to happen at the intersection of race and gender so that when we challenge systems, we also intentionally make space for all women."

Sarah Smith, communications and community relations program manager at the Food Bank of York Region

“We need to see and hear more women accomplishing their goals, working together and being successful in all areas of life. Share your stories, lend your voice, be heard and help motivate all generations of women together.”

Marilyn Iafrate, City of Vaughan Ward 1 councillor

"International Women’s Day for me is a time of reflection recognizing the strength, tenacity and intensity that women bring to all that they do. For countless centuries, women have struggled for their place in society always striving to do and be better just to be noticed. Through this celebration, we honour them with much deserved respect and dignity."

Alyssa Hall, writer

"As a girl I learned imbalance; men were emboldened while women silenced. We need to be empowered, respected and equal -- to realize this as children, and not in old age. What could I have accomplished then? I’m proud of women carrying on the fight. Unfortunate we still have to."

Agnes Imani, founder of Jews Against Antisemitism Canada

"Over centuries women have struggled to be heard, to be valued, to be respected and to enjoy the same rights as men. Although we have come a long way, we are still not considered as equals. International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate women’s strength and perseverance. It is a day we remind the world that we are warriors who stand our ground and will keep following our passion, standing up for what we believe in and doing the work that needs to get done. Most importantly, we will hand the torch over to our daughters, granddaughters and students. The word ‘impossible’ does not exist in a woman’s vocabulary."

Christine Elliott, MPP for Newmarket-Aurora

"International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the significant contributions of women and girls in our community and province. From young philanthropists and scholars, to dedicated health care workers and award-winning entrepreneurs, I continue to be inspired by the leadership, commitment, and accomplishments of women in Newmarket--Aurora."

Yvonne Kelly, Chair of the Social Planning Council of York Region

"We must take this day to reflect on the strength, resilience and accomplishments of all women, in particular those whose voices and contributions have not been acknowledged. And then get on with dismantling persistent, systemic inequities that continue to disproportionately disenfranchise women of colour, Indigenous, low-income and disabled women."