Saying no to violence against women through discussion, education and celebration on March 8, International Women’s Day will be filled with train whistles as a regional women’s event kicks into gear on a Waterloo Central Railway train ride from Waterloo to St. Jacobs.
“Through this event we are trying to raise awareness about violence against women and girls. For the second year now we’ve been doing an event on International Women’s Day. [This year] we’ve invited the public to join us on the train,” said Anita Gatti, chair of advocacy at Zonta Kitchener-Waterloo, a branch of the international women’s organization.
Chartered in 1978, local members strive to improve quality of life for women and girls through fundraising efforts and scholarships while Zonta International has connections to the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
Coinciding with the women’s holiday, celebrated since the early 20th century, Zonta will fly its banners in promotion of an international campaign. The 16-day Zonta Says No campaign started in 2012 to promote issues surrounding violence against women.
Last year Zonta Kitchener-Waterloo held the first Women’s Day event on a Kitchener bridge during rush hour traffic to draw the public’s attention.
“Everybody is invited to wear orange, which is the official colour of the UN Secretary’s campaign to end violence against women and girls,” Gatti said.
UNiTE to End Violence Against Women was launched in 2008 by the United Nations in an attempt to protect the rights of women and girls through changes in law, data collection, cooperation of nations and the establishment of campaigns.
“We are going to be having a number of events on the train ride to educate the public and make them more aware of the issue and also do a few fun things,” Gatti said.
Signs will be placed in the windows of the train to draw attention to riders at stops and railway crossings, she added. Zonta will be looking for signatures for a petition on human trafficking legislation. Stories about everyday women, who inspire as well as women of renown in history, will be told and discussions will centre on issues faced by women today.
“We think of women who have been pioneers in their field. Women like Amelia Earheart; women like Malala Yousafzai who would relate to a lot of young women in terms of the right of young girls in developing countries; women like Hillary Clinton and Nellie McClung.”
International Women’s Day has been celebrated for more than a century. In 1909 the first National Woman’s Day was observed across the United States on February 28. Then in 1910, women from 17 countries attending an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen called for an annual Women’s Day. Following that, in 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. The date was permanently changed to March 8 after Russia celebrated their first International Women’s Day. For Zonta’s local members March 8 is a time to reflect on the past and look to the future.
“For us it’s a day to take stock of where we are at, celebrate our achievements and look forward to the work that still needs to be done in order to advance the status of women,” Gatti said.
After a short stop in St. Jacobs, the train will be heading back to Waterloo. Visitors will be arriving at 10 a.m. and boarding the train at 10:30 a.m. at WCR’s Waterloo station (10 Father David Bauer Dr.).