Thursday, March 15, 2012

Celebrating International Women’s Day a Mount Tradition

Last week, the Mount community celebrated International Women’s Day with a major conference dedicated to discussing the challenges, experiences and accomplishments of girls and young women. Called GIRLS 2012, this landmark conference was a showcase project of the Mount’s Institute for Women, Gender, and Social Justice. Nearly 300 girls, young women, and those concerned about girls’ issues and social justice for girls in Canada and around the world took part in two full days of workshops, seminars, films, readings, and discussion.

I was greatly inspired and moved by the wide range of topics covered in the more than 30 sessions. Issues critical to the lives of girls and young women –body image, sexual assault awareness, safe schools for LBGTQI youth, activism, social media as a tool for girls, women in politics and women’s participation in sport and science – all of these topics were discussed and passionately debated. A remarkable organizing committee, dozens of volunteers, speakers, and of course conference participants all deserve our sincere thanks for continuing the legacy of the Sisters of Charity in advancing the lives of girls and women worldwide.

While International Women’s Day is an important time to reflect on the advances we have made, and the work still to be done, women’s achievements need to be celebrated year round, and at the Mount, we believe every day is women’s day.

We were one of the first higher education institutions in Canada to specialize in the education of women, and our commitment to advancing women is explicitly highlighted in the University’s mission statement. Our four Canada Research Chairs, all women, and faculty across campus are engaged in critical work to better understand and account for the experiences of women, and to improve the lives of girls and women globally.

Dr. Franz-Odendaal hosts a group from
Techsploration at Girls 2012
Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal, Atlantic NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and Associate Professor (Biology) at the Mount, and one of the speakers at GIRLS 2012, works with young women around Atlantic Canada to encourage their participation in science and engineering. This is one notable example of how our investment in and support of girls contributes to the development of strong women – mothers, partners, workers and leaders – who in turn enhance our communities.

At the Mount, we are taking our commitment to women further with plans for our new Margaret Norrie McCain Centre for Teaching, Learning and Research. To our knowledge, this is the first university building in Canada designed to honour the contributions and experiences of women across the country. When completed, the McCain Centre will house some of the Mount’s signature programs.  We will also feature the life stories of 12 inspiring women who have made key contributions to the arts, sciences, their professions, and public life.

But we’re taking it even further still. Through Project TWENTY12, we aim to celebrate the extraordinary lives of ordinary women from all walks of life. Mothers, teachers, daughters, grandmothers, mentors, leaders, and women who have touched the lives of their families, communities, friends, and colleagues. The Women’s Wall of Honour, unique in Canada, will be a remarkable opportunity to acknowledge and pay lasting tribute to 2012 women through an outdoor garden and a living memorial.  We invite all members of our community to learn more about this special opportunity by visiting the Project TWENTY12 website.

Until next time,