There is a real reason to hope for the lot of women in the world.
Sally Armstrong, an acclaimed Canadian journalist and human rights activist, said the rise of social media has done wonders to give a voice to those women who might not otherwise have one.
“In the midst of all this chaos, there has been a spark of light,” she told delegates gathered for the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) 2017 Canada Area Conference, held June 23-25 at Pembroke’s Best Western Hotel and Conference Centre.
Developments such as the five million woman march, getting 50 per cent of the federal Liberal cabinet filled with woman MPs, to 160 women and girls who were sexual assault victims successfully suing Kenya to take the crime seriously and others show the ground is shifting slowly in favour of women.
“We are on the radar at last,” Armstrong said. There remains a lot of work to do, but at least there is movement in a positive direction.
The journalist, who spent most of her life covering some of the trouble spots on earth such as Afghanistan and Iraq, said women are speaking up as others hadn't done before, and the power brokers are listening to them, as it has finally become clear the world can no longer afford to suppress half of the world's population.
Armstrong said of the wars she's covered, most are ongoing affairs which have lasted generations due to three prime causes: poverty, a lack of education and the suppression of women.
She said because of the way women prefer to cultivate a sense of community over the need to have control, they are the best in temperament to bring about the end of poverty, for example, if given a chance by those in power.
Armstrong said those who actively suppress women through culture, religious practice or any number of ways are funding the women beginning to stand up and challenge them at every turn.
The spark has been the emergence of social media like Facebook, in which they now have the ability to reach out and communicate with countless others across the world.
“Women every where were able to talk to each other globally,” she said. “Together, they learned how a few opportunistic men were holding women back.” Their bigger voice, she said, has brought pressure to bear on those on power to change, and have told stories which otherwise wouldn't be known.
“Women who never dared to speak up before are openly questioning the old men and ideas which have kept them down,” Armstrong said.
The story of Malala Yousafzai, for instance, a girl who refused to be intimidated and went to school against the threats of the Taliban, and was shot for her efforts. She survived, continued to fight for the rights of women to be educated, and became the youngest ever recipient for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“She became the world's daughter,” Armstrong said, gaining prestige and support on a massive scale. That wouldn't have happened without social media to spread her story globally.
She said what will make the world change is not just political and public will, but personal will, having the courage to stand up and say this isn't right, and do something to correct it. That is what Women's Institutes have been doing, and Armstrong said she salutes them for their efforts.
Armstrong was the keynote speaker for the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) 2017 Canada Area Conference, which was held shortly after the Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario 2017 Provincial Conference . Both of which were held over the course of June 20-25, 2017.
Both conferences were held at Pembroke’s Best Western Hotel and Conference Centre.
The Provincial Conference attracted more than 200 attendees from across Ontario, while the Canada Area Conference welcomed more than 150 guests coming from all provinces.
Elaine Hennessy, a member of the Greenwood Women’s Institute, said both conferences honoured the 120 years of achievements since the first Women’s Institute in the world was founded on the 19th of February, 1897 in Stoney Creek, Ontario. Since that historic day, WI organizations have been established in every province across Canada and in some places around the world such as the United Kingston, New Zealand, Malaysia and South Africa.
She said the provincial conference also honoured Canada’s 150th through the launch of their provincial Canada 150 Project Book Launch that will be held on the conference’s opening day, on June 20.
Titled “Ordinary to Extraordinary”, the book includes a collection of 150 real-life stories written by members from across Ontario, including an account from Christine Reaburn, president of the Eastern Area Women's Institute in Ontario.
The two conferences featured a number of provincial, national and international Women’s Institute guests such as ACWW President Ruth Shanks, ACWW Canada Area President Sheila Needham, Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada President Linda Hoy and Indiana Extension Homemakers Association representative Nancy Jo Prue.