People packed the Shuswap Pie Company Friday evening where they heard stories of injustice, stories of hope and success, along with encouragement for change.
The SAFE Society once again marked International Women’s Day with an event well-attended by both men and women, featuring refreshments and music interspersed with speakers.
During her welcome, Paige Hilland spoke about the theme, Balance for Better, and how men’s involvement in advancing parity for women is essential for change.
Colleen Making talked about the heartbreaking stories she continues to hear about how society treats women and thinks of women, and how advertising portrays women.
“I think it takes all of us in the community to change that.”
She pointed out that girls and young women are encouraged to be safe, not to park their cars in dark areas, to always be sure they’re aware of their surroundings.
To applause, she asked why it is that we teach girls not to be a victim, instead of teaching boys, don’t rape.
Cindy Derkaz spoke about her early years as a lawyer in Salmon Arm, when she was not permitted to attend social gatherings of lawyers or join organizations her male colleagues were, nor was she taken seriously by male clients.
She said one of the most blatant experiences was when a one-month exchange to France was circulated by the Rotary Club so, realizing she qualified, she wrote a letter of application. The application was returned to her, unopened, with a handwritten note attached stating it was only for men. When the French contingent arrived in the Shuswap, it contained both men and women.
Derkaz said she relates these situations to explain they have made her a stronger feminist and a stronger advocate for social justice. One of the ways she did that was to make a decision when she was practising law that if a woman in Salmon Arm needed her legal help but couldn’t afford her bill, she would help anyway. She also decided she would always support women’s organizations and she would encourage young women to achieve their goals. She said she would always be supportive of her female friends, to listen, to be non-judgmental and to be kind.
Derkaz also encouraged her audience to call out bullying whenever they witness it.
“And most importantly,” she said, “whenever we have a choice, we can make the choice that’s going to empower women. Maybe it will put ourselves out, maybe we won’t look quite as good, but why don’t we help women get ahead.”
Music throughout the evening was provided by Making Do, and several people in attendance took time out to have their photos taken with signs about empowering women which were then posted on the SAFE Society’s Facebook page.