International Women’s Day well-supported in Portage

Day of Solidarity 

International Women’s Day well-supported in Portage

The Portage Citizen

Living well is all about perspective and Portage women shared theirs on International Women’s Day 2018.

Marketing for an evening event on March 8 promised for those who attended to “be inspired, laugh and share with some amazing women” and it was delivered.

The theme this year was #pressforprogress and the poster said: ‘now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. There’s a strong call to #PressforProgress motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.’

Presented in partnership by the Portage la Prairie Community Revitalization Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce, Portage Family Abuse Prevention Centre and the Portage la Prairie Military Family Service Centre (with thanks to Boston Pizza), the high energy event was punctuated by lots of laughter, much applause and pensive pause for thought and togetherness.

Speakers included a First Nations school principal, an independent businesswoman and a self-described “volunteer” (that is her superpower) to bring a well-rounded discourse on International Women’s Day.

Joan Smoke
Joan Smoke, school principal at Dakota PlainMickey Dumont/Citizen photo

Joan Smoke, school principal at Dakota Plains, said, “it’s important for some of the women, especially when we’re talking about gender discrimination, parity between men and woman, to hear a First Nations’ perspective as to what that looks like from my point of view.

Smoke talked about some of the articles in the Indian Act and how Indigenous women lost some of their power in a culture where gender roles were otherwise complimentary.

“A lot of woman don’t realize the systemic discrimination against females and who qualifies as status and how they’re eliminating status though mothers. I’m hoping women here will see how First Nations women are left a little bit behind the ball in terms of equality right across the board,” Smoke said.

Roberta Christenson
Roberta Christianson calls herself ‘just a volunteer’. Mickey Dumont/Citizen photo

Roberta Christianson calls herself ‘just a volunteer’. Many in attendance know Christianson as a tireless and accomplished community builder and leader who has had affected many lives in Portage la Prairie whether they know it or not.

“Things were very different when I was coming up then for many of these young women,” Christianson said. “My husband is a lawyer and when we moved to town I was told very clearly that professional wives do not get jobs. The expectation became then you involved yourself in the community as a volunteer. That’s what I did.

“Very fortunately, for reasons I don’t understand, it opened all sorts of doors for me that allowed me to be involved in the cultural review of the Province of Manitoba, allowed me to become the chair of the Manitoba Arts Council and allowed me to go on to bigger and better things, but it all started with my involvement and my commitment at the community level,” she explained.

Christianson talked about the many women from all levels who have helped her build her life as positive influences and how it helped her become an agent of change in her community. We (women) need to remember that we are all in this together and to go shoulder-to-shoulder and not to judge in any way the choices that other women have made.”

Chelsea Lewis
Chelsea Lewis is a successful Portage la Prairie independent businesswoman. Mickey Dumont/Citizen photo

Chelsea Lewis is a successful Portage la Prairie independent businesswoman. The owner of The Cellar Door, Lewis is on a mission to not only bring the bacon home, but as to be a stalwart in the local economy and promote the provincial economy by promoting mostly made in Manitoba made goods and then Canadian products.

“My message to women today is that we need to work together, be a team no matter what,” Lewis said. “We have crossed off so many things on our to-do list to have equality – we’re not far away from getting there. Women in business are normal now. We are running companies, we are CEOs, we are managers, we are owners and it’s great to see we are taking that responsibility and owning it.”

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