“Highlighting the vast gender inequality in many aspects of the world, this day is an opportunity for our community to highlight the many strong women who have made big impacts on breaking the bias,” said Head Prefect Amonda.
Amonda spoke at this year’s International Women’s Day Assembly, which took a multifaceted approach to celebrating women’s contributions, resilience and innovation over many decades.
Established in 1911, International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, while also calling for action to accelerate gender parity. Held each year on March 8, this year’s theme was #BreaktheBias. As the website
states, “Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough. Action is needed to level the playing field.”
In Assembly, students Caitlyn, Kaitlyn and Hannah spoke about some impressive accomplishments that women have made in sports while highlighting how only five per cent of TV sports coverage is about women’s sports, and that male athletes in sports such as basketball, golf, soccer, baseball and tennis receive salaries that are 15 to 100 per cent greater than those of female athletes. Kaitlyn, the Grade 9 Athletics Council representative, encouraged students to discuss how to support one another, knowing that being involved in sports can bring many benefits. Students Sophia and Katie, Heads of the French Club, also shared some impressive accomplishments made by Francophone women who competed in this year’s Winter Olympics.
Students Sofia, Amonda and Lianne shared the contributions of women who are part of the East Asian community, such as Chinese-American freestyle skier, Eileen Gu; Margaret Chan, a Chinese-Canadian physician who served as Director General for the World Health Organization for 11 years; and Sandra Oh, a South-Korean Canadian actor.
Our Middle School students also spoke about what International Women’s Day means to them by sharing the stories of some inspirational women. Aria spoke about her great-grandmother Alice, who married at 16 and had her first child at 17, yet was a lifelong learner. She taught herself to drive a car and had mastered six different languages by the end of her life. “Alice is a great example of one of many women who ‘broke the bias’ in whatever way they could to achieve what they wanted,” said Aria. “Alice is someone who inspires me every single day.”
Grade 7 student Inaya shared how she is inspired by Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani female education activist who was shot by a member of the Taliban for speaking out about girls’ rights to go to school. “I am inspired by her determination because even after this, she has continued to fight for female education and rights,” said Inaya.
Grade 8 student Berlin shared about her mother Clara, who was encouraged by her own mother—Berlin’s grandmother, Marie—to be an independent career woman. Clara graduated from university and, along with Berlin’s father, has created and sold three tech companies. She has also received many accolades, including being recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada twice. “With my grandmother’s encouragement, my mom was able to redefine the traditional role of women and demonstrate the power of women when they are given the same opportunities as men,” said Berlin. “I am inspired by both of these women and I am making a commitment to continue to break the bias and barriers for women.”
To mark International Women’s Day, Branksome Hall established the Annual Fund Day of Giving, a day where we ask community members to donate to our school’s Annual Fund in honour of an inspirational woman. Donors could choose to designate their financial gift to a number of different funds, including the Principal’s Fund, which supports the area of greatest need; and Student Financial Assistance, which helps to provide bursaries to deserving students who would otherwise be unable to receive a Branksome education.
Along with sending a financial donation, donors were encouraged to share a special tribute message about the person for whom they were making the donation. The inspiring tributes included messages such as:
- "In honour of our daughter Serena, who makes us so proud. Love you, Mommy and Daddy."
- "In honor of Mrs. McRae, a great teacher and very influential in my life to this day."
- "My Great Aunt Ethel WADGE MacLennan’13, a product of Victorian/Edwardian eras, was the only woman and the only Canadian artist invited to join the exclusive artist colony in Cape Cod in the 1920s. Although she agreed in her advanced years to hold exhibits in Canada and the USA, she resisted all efforts and attractive offers to sell any of her wonderful watercolours and oils, being far too humble. My sisters and I are fortunate to have been gifted some of her paintings posthumously. I remember her well, a well-coiffed, white-haired lady of grace, elegance, pearls and great modesty."
- "Celebrating all the incredible women of Branksome Hall—past present and future. Happy International Women's Day."
In total, the Annual Fund Day of Giving raised an impressive $25,000, which will go directly to helping empower students here at Branksome and foster the mark they will make on the world.