"Fellow feminists," was how Niki Ashton greeted the crowd at Women's Forum 2013, held earlier last week in Ottawa. It was a fitting address; the women who joined her on stage throughout the day were passionate, they were fiesty and they didn't shy away from using the f-word.
Well over 100 people attended the forum, now in its second year. Ashton, the forum organizer, made headlines in 2008 when she became the second youngest woman ever elected to the House of Commons.
Many of the other women who spoke at this year's forum were also young, but they brought years of experience working as advocates, educators and community organizers to advance gender equality.
They delved into topics as diverse as the revival of Indigenous women's leadership roles through Idle No More, barriers to employment faced by women with disabilities and the economic violence inflicted on women by the privatization and austerity agenda.
"The women we will hear from today are passionate about women's rights because they know that they are not simply a part of, but are integral to economic and environmental justice." -- Niki Aston, MP for Churchill, Manitoba
"We must have self-determination of our bodies and self-determination of our lands to have healthy communities for our future generations." -- Erin Marie Konsmo, Métis/Cree artist and media arts and projects coordinator with the Native Youth Sexual Health Network
"This movement is not just an indigenous thing. It's an everybody thing." -- Janice Makokis, Cree woman and treaty educator/ instructor, in reference to Idle No More
"You learn a certain tenacity, a certain way of being as a feminist and an activist in my province. When things are so very clear-cut, when you are up against a juggernaut of the world's most powerful companies, there is only one way to deal with that. And that is to reach deep inside yourself as a feminist and a trade unionist and an activist, and not compromise, and not give an inch." -- Shannon Phillips, senior policy analyst with the Alberta Federation of Labour
"We need to see ourselves -- activists, progressives involved in social movements, feminists, trade unionists -- as being the official opposition to Stephen Harper.” -- Nora Loreto, writer, musician and activist
Full audio recordings of speeches and panel discussions at Women's Forum 2013 can be found here.
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