Women – the heart of our community

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by the Times staff

Monday, March 8, is International Women’s Day. Honestly, we had no idea until our editor brought it up at our weekly editorial meeting. These days, it’s hard enough to keep track of the days of the week, let alone international days of recognition.

However, as we thought about it more, we realized that we really should be paying more attention, considering how many amazing, strong, and inspiring women there are in our community. Over the past weeks, the Times has profiled many business owners in North Dundas, and, significantly, most of them have been women. This reflects the growing importance of women in business worldwide, in spite of the obstacles and challenges women still face in our own country.

Taunya Van Allen, owner and operator of Winchester Kennels, is a member of our community, a businessperson, and an employer. She is one example of the many female entrepreneurs who have gone from being lower paid employees, to being vital employers themselves. Kelly Windle and her husband Stefan Kohut own and operate The Planted Arrow Flowers and Gifts in Winchester, another area of growth in business, where partnerships have formed in which women are equal decision-makers and leaders. The Times is more of a personal source of pride for those of us who work there. Of the eight members of staff, six are women, and for one of the two owners, Marguerite Boyer, this is the second community newspaper she has developed.

There are so many other examples of strong female entrepreneurs in our area. This has really come to light in the last year, when many of them had to completely re-work their business models to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic. We spoke to many of them over the past few months and were always impressed by their positive outlook and resiliency in a time when it would have been easy just to give up hope.

This resiliency, ability to multi-task and juggle multiple priorities, is something women have had to adapt to in our modern world. Women are strong and capable, but they are often pulled in two separate directions with the expectation to have a fulfilling career AND raise a family. Women can, and certainly have, the ability to do both, but they should also have the right to choose without judgement. Any mother who chooses to stay home with their children should be valued and respected as a productive member of society. That being said, mothers who choose to go after their dreams and have a career outside the home should never be shamed for spending time away from their children.

The true power of the feminist movement is allowing women the ability to choose whether they stay home with their children or pursue their career. Maybe they choose not to have children at all. All choices should be equally as acceptable.

Another strength that women bring to the table is their ability to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability begets connection, and it is connection that truly builds communities. Many brave women have shared their stories of struggle with the community, on social media, or in this paper. Whether it be a history of sexual or domestic violence, depression, anxiety, post-partum struggles, or housing insecurity, women who show up in the world and own their past and current vulnerabilities not only help themselves, but also create a stronger, more connected community. If that’s not heroism, we don’t know what is.

International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the power of women, and whether that be as the leader of a community, an entrepreneur, or a homemaker, all should be celebrated. Time and time again, we have seen the women of this community fight for what they believe in. Whether it be volunteering with a local organization, providing a service to the community that they feel passionate about, or advocating for their kids, local women have a lot to offer.

We can be proud to be women in our community; a community with a heart that is full of kindness and love. Men, of course, have an integral role to play, but we believe it is the female energy from local women that truly unites us as a strong, compassionate, and resourceful community. There are still so many challenges facing women in our society, and in the rest of the world today. Women remain underpaid, undervalued, and far too often the victims of economic, psychological, and physical abuse. Women, particularly women fleeing abuse with their children, are over-represented in our remand centres and prisons. There is not enough support and places of refuge for women, and the entire issue of abuse Is still not getting the attention it demands.

But, for this one day, at least, International Women’s Day that arrives on Monday, let’s celebrate the achievements, let’s cheer the increasing number of glass ceilings that are being smashed, and honour those brave women and men, past and present, who have led the way and proved by their example that change is both necessary and inevitable.

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