#ChooseToChallenge: How you can observe the 110th International Women’s Day

“From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.”
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“Gender is a pre-written book

And this is your chance to add your own chapter

To call out racism and sexism

And use courage to rub it out

To stand where the rest of the world has chosen to sit.”

Anisa Nandaula, “Choose To Challenge”

TORONTO — On March 19, 1911, a historic decision in Copenhagen, Denmark, honoured the first International Women’s Day (IWD) in countries including Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. In 1913, Russian women celebrated their inaugural IWD on February 23 of the Russian calendar, which translated to March 8 on the Gregorian calendar. 

Now 110 years later, the tender sprouts of IWD have now flourished as a global movement, with every March 8 hailing the universal celebration of women. IWD continues to be a bastion of women’s history, of women’s collective memory, of the hard-fought social progress that we enjoy today. 

There is still a long way to go for gender and racial equality, but every IWD urges us to learn from the genealogy of feminism and all its intersections, to salute the victories for gender equality and social justice women have achieved. IWD has to be more than a symbolic gesture, however, and should empower us to keep fighting for institutional and societal reform to uplift marginalized and silenced voices.  

The IWD 2021 theme is #ChooseToChallenge, which encourages everyone to call out gender bias and inequality (PHOTO: Courtesy of International Women’s Day)

This year’s official IWD campaign theme, #ChooseToChallenge, invites women and allies to actively challenge incidents of gender bias and inequality that they witness in their daily lives. 

“A challenged world is an alert world,” the IWD site stated. “We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”

“Choose to create history / Not to be created by it / Choose to challenge,” spoken word poet Anisa Nandaula recited in her poem, “Choose to Challenge.” 

This IWD, you can honour the feminist forebears who courageously chose to challenge, as well as the modern women who continue to rupture gender and social barriers today — right from the comfort of your home in Toronto.

International Women’s Day Celebration

Hosted by Immigrant Women in Business (IWB),

Zoom, 4:30 to 7:30 PM EST, Free Admission

Immigrant Women and Business (IWB) is having its fourth annual IWD celebration via Zoom video conference. Hosted by a diverse panel of women, the IWB event has a theme of “Strengthening Role of Women as a Tool for Real Change in our Society.” 

The two-and-a-half-hour celebration features keynote speeches about women in technology, women empowerment, belonging, and Black Lives Matter. The IWB will also host a tutorial on preparing a 30-second elevator pitch and a karaoke session. 

The non-profit organization supports women entrepreneurs with their business enterprises, equipping them with the skills they need to grow their projects and attain financial freedom.

“IWB is on a mission to encourage women to come together and play a role in building and empowering themselves to be a leader in business, social enterprises, and their communities,” the event page stated. 

The virtual celebration has an attendance limit of 200 participants. Those interested in the event can register online. General admission is free. 

Find event registration info here and the Zoom link here.

Becoming (PHOTO: Netflix)

Michelle Obama Becoming Biopic – International Women’s Day

Hosted by Youth Assisting Youth

Zoom, 5:00 to 6:30 PM EST, Free Admission

Peer mentorship program Youth Assisting Youth is hosting a virtual watch party via Zoom, screening the Michelle Obama Netflix documentary film, Becoming (2020). Partially based on the eponymous memoir, Becoming is an intimate conversation with the former first lady about her life, work, and ambitions.

Youth Assisting Youth is a non-profit “Investing in the leaders of tomorrow and transforming the lives of at-risk youth and newcomers through the power of peer mentorship in Toronto and York Region.”

Those interested in the event can contact Andre or Summer at events@yay.org. Admission is free.

Find event info here.

Women + Wealth Gala (PHOTO: Women + Wealth Gala)

Women + Wealth Gala

Hosted by Women & Wealth Inc.

Zoom, 5:00 to 9:00 PM EST, Tickets start at C$50

Non-profit Women & Wealth Inc. will be holding an online IWD celebration featuring successful women in various fields — entrepreneurship, public speaking, advocacy — who will be reflecting on their personal journeys. 

“This event is a powerful and empowering way for people across Canada to connect and celebrate International Women’s Day, and this year we’re bringing that experience to you,” the event page read. 

The gala will be hosted by Carrie Doll, with a roster of guest speakers including Sarah Nicole Landry, Chau Lui, and Paulette Senior as well as a performance from Michelle Rushfeldt. Tickets start at C$50 and will support the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

Find event info here.

Rally for International Working Women's Day

Hosted by Revolutionary Student Movement – Toronto

Yonge and Finch, 5:30 PM EST, Free Admission

Toronto group Revolutionary Student Movement is spearheading a rally in North York, starting at Yonge St and Finch Ave to support working-class women from all intersections of identity.  

“For over 100 years, this day has been an occasion to advance the women’s movement as part of the revolutionary struggle against imperialism, capitalism, and patriarchy around the world,” the event page stated. 

The objective of the march is to advance working women’s struggle against systemic inequities as a result of the country’s colonial and patriarchal history, according to the organization.

“Women of the oppressed classes face the worst violence: the most exploitative jobs, harassment at work and on the streets, sexual exploitation, backbreaking domestic labour and abuse at home – the list goes on.”

Event organizers encourage attendees to dress warmly and wear masks.

Find event info here.

Event poster for Challenge to Change event (PHOTO: Sheridan Student Union)

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Challenge to Change

Hosted by Sheridan Student Union (SSU)

Zoom, March 9, 4:00 to 5:00 PM EST, Free Admission

In honour of this year’s #ChooseToChallenge campaign, the Sheridan Student Union (SSU) will be holding an online event teaching strategies to identify and eliminate implicit gender biases. 

“The event will discuss why IWD is so important, what are biases, and how to challenge them!” 

Those interested in attending the session, held a day after IWD, can sign up online, and the event link will be provided upon registration. Admission is free.

SSU virtual tribute wall (PHOTO: Sheridan Student Union)

In the meantime, the SSU has also erected a virtual tribute wall for people to pay homage to women who inspire them or chooses to challenge the status quo. “Whether they’re a colleague, mentor, classmate or friend, we want to recognize them and the impact they have in helping to forge a more inclusive world,” the page stated. 

Find event info here.

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