Last Tuesday evening I was invited to the US Consulate General Lynne Platt’s residence, located just off South Granville in Vancouver, for the film screening and discussion of the Voices of America documentary ‘A Single Step: Journey of Women Leaders’.
I was honoured to be in the mix of some very acclaimed women. This was an intimate gathering of approximately 30 local women for Women’s History Month.
After the screening of the film, there was an hour allocated for dialogue. The discussion portion was conducted theatre style, and led by a mediator, with a supporting panel. An hour is not enough time to dig into any topics explicitly, but I believe the intention of the event was to network, and maybe inspire.
I appreciated the comments of the attendees and the deserving panel, however I felt the discussion lacked connection. The comments were not building on each other, although a range of strong comments were presented. Such engagements are a step in the right direction, and the perceptions of others are always enlightening IF we listen.
If a perspective is different from my own, for me that exposure is education. I have been invited to several presentations regarding women’s issues, following discussion sessions, and from my observations, I think women (overall) need to communicate better with one another, for better collaboration opportunities.
As mentioned an hour does not leave much time to dig into anything, but a significant portion of the discussion time focused on the topic of violence against women. A comment referenced the physical and sexual violence women currently face in the Syrian refugee camps; I expanded on this mentioning that sexual violence is a global issue, and is also a huge issue in Canada.
The follow up comment made to my response was that “at least now orientation at Universities include guidelines around sexual consent”. I quietly digested this comment. If we need to have that conversation at the University level, then we have failed our society and that generation clearly. Lasting change starts with early education and how we raise our children. We need to invest in such education if we are hoping to alter the course of our future.
Before I move on to another point of the discussion, consider the following question:
Why do we look at other parts of the world that are war struck or culturally different, and assume that the issue of sexual and physical violence is worse there?
We spent much time listing the gender discrepancies in income earning, representation in various professional fields, biases in corporate culture, and the role women play to reinforce these biases, and so forth. The debated question was whether women have made progress since the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Women have made huge strides in some areas and not so much in others.
Valuable time was spent listing the areas where women struggle, with no input on how to move past the challenges, or how the panel members have been successful in their efforts. The women in the documentary did not let challenges stop them, they proceeded with creative approaches.
Towards the end of the session, a lady in the front row commented that the dialogue thus far was uninspiring, and she hoped that the conversation could turn into something hopeful so that she would have something positive to take with her. I think as women in leadership roles we must bring the inspiration to others and not look for others to present it. If we do not like how a conversation is going, we have the ability to change it and make it more enriching. Why is it that when given the chance to empower each other in a safe environment, in many circumstances this too is a challenge for many women?
On a final note, of course I could not hold it in anymore; with only minutes left to conclude the gathering, I managed to get a final comment in. “I think that the biggest changes and revolutions start at the grassroots. Every woman in this room has a voice and an opportunity for positive impact. Women Care but can also take Charge. If something truly matters to you then you can find a way to advance it and create pockets of positive momentum. No excuses. The women in the documentary found a way and are clear examples for us in our journey.”
Thank you to Lynne Platt and her team for creating this opportunity for exchange and sharing. The more we talk about Women’s issues, the better we will get at directing the conversation for more productive outcomes and collaborative opportunities. The reality is that women’s rights and issues are human rights and issues.
Thank you for reading! Peace and good wishes, TSamji