An International Women’s Day event in Parksville saw a wide-ranging conversation about challenges women can face and successes they can celebrate.
Michelle Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum, hosted the tea and talk on Sunday at Tigh-Na-Mara resort.
“It’s such an important time for us to recognize the accomplishments of women, but also what we can do when we come together,” Stilwell said.
Joining Stilwell were guests Mira Laurence, a former TV sports broadcaster, and Tara Campbell, a Haven Society volunteer.
More than 50 women attended the event, which was a fundraiser for Haven Society. The society shelters and assists women and children and the services are accessed more often than some people realize – Parksville Qualicum Haven House receives an average of eight phone calls a day from women seeking help.
“Sometimes we just walk through our day thinking that we’re all safe, because when we see people, we’re not seeing the abuse…” said Campbell. “These women who are getting Haven’s services every month are really, really in need … sometimes suffering in silence, where no one really knows what they’re going through.”
Laurence talked about some of the challenges she faced as a woman in the male-dominated sports broadcasting industry. She said she felt like she had to work harder, knowing that if she were to mis-pronounce an athlete’s name, for example, she would be judged harshly.
“And I would be judged by what I looked like that day, not necessarily what I said. I’d even have family members that would be like, ‘I didn’t really like your jacket,’ and I’m like, ‘well, what about that cool story that I put on air?’” Laurence said.
She talked about her firing from the TV station two years ago, which eventually led to her current job as executive director of a non-profit.
“I’m trying to figure out this new world and redefine myself … I’m going to figure it out and I’m going to try and at least I’m resourceful,” Laurence said. “Step by step and one foot in front of the other.”
Stilwell, a six-time Paralympic gold medallist, recalled challenges and triumphs during her athletic career. She said whatever adversity women face, there are friends, family and neighbours who can offer support.
“Those are opportunities that are there for you for the taking. It’s only up to you. You can choose not to take it and walk through the door and not try something that challenges you or you’re afraid of,” she said.
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is ‘be bold for change’ and Stilwell said that was a common thread on Sunday.
“The room was filled with women who shared stories and empowered each other,” she said. “I think we have so much knowledge and experience to share with each other.”