CapU focuses on Indigenous women in the DTES for this year’s day of empowerment
Jayde Atchison // Staff Writer
International Women’s Day (IWD) will be celebrated for the 109th year on March 8. During the week leading up to the celebration, Capilano University (CapU) will host IWD events across campus led by the Women’s and Gender Studies department. Students will be able to learn more about the global day and listen to inspirational women.
IWD has an official theme posted on their website each year, with this year being #EachforEqual. Although there is a suggested theme, according to the International Women’s Day website, “many organizations declare an annual IWD theme that supports their specific agenda or cause, and some of these are adopted more widely with relevance than others.” CapU is embarking on a theme of Indigenous women in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) for 2020.
According to Kirsten McIlveen, geography professor and convener for the Women’s and Gender Studies program, this year’s theme “brings up issues of violence, poverty and shorter lifespans.” McIlveen teaches a course on women in prison and, after the Walls to Bridges program offered in the fall semester, CapU is also reflecting on the carceral continuum of Indigenous women.
On Wed. March 4, the Women’s and Gender Studies faculty will have an informational table set up in the Birch building cafeteria. Between 11:30am – 1pm there will be cupcakes, games and information on IWD. Students are encouraged to go and speak to the organizers.
Another activity during IWD week is on Thur. March 5 in Cedar 148 from 11:30am – 1pm. Guest speaker Sophie Marasty will be discussing her work as an activist and her involvement as a co-collaborator in a report called Red Women Rising: Indigenous Women Survivors in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Marasty is a Denesuline and Woodland Cree woman from Manitoba as well as an actor, grandmother and activist. Her involvement in Red Women Rising, released by the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, showcases women in the DTES calling for significant change from 113 Indigenous survivors of violence and 15 non-Indigenous women. The event will be in a moderated interview style, and all students are welcome to attend. Reflecting on past IWD events, McIlveen said, “everybody seems to find a place and finds it interesting. It is for everyone.”
If students cannot make it to the events on campus, they are able to find other ways to meaningfully learn about gender equality. Engaging in events and groups around campus such as the Women’s Collective or taking Women’s and Gender Studies classes allow students to be involved. Many of the courses offered hold an activist element and students are able to meet and speak with powerful classroom guest presenters. Outside the classroom, students can seek out self-empowerment through services like the Learning Commons, Counselling and participating in events and collectives.
For more information on IWD and how to get involved, stop by the Women’s and Gender Studies table on March 4 in the Birch cafeteria.