Celebrating women’s stories

International Women’s Week wraps up this weekend

Women marched from St. Andrew’s Church to City Hall yesterday to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Women marched from St. Andrew’s Church to City Hall yesterday to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Credit: 
Heather Mosher

On Monday, students and community members celebrated women during International Women’s Week by remembering their grandmothers’ stories. Haifang Wang, international education intern at the International Centre, fondly remembers the stories her grandmother told her as a child.

“I didn’t have her stories in writing, but I had the oral tradition. I came up with the idea of sharing stories.” Wang, who was born in Shandong Province, China, brought in pictures of her family to the
event, “Stories my Grandmother Told Me,” which she conceived together with Susan Anderson, assistant director of the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC ), as one of the inaugural
events of this year’s International Women’s Week. Wang said her grandmother kept busy cleaning the house, caring for the family’s chickens, and visiting neighbours. Her feet were bound for aesthetic reasons, as was common for young Chinese girls at the time. Although this restricted her movement, Wang described her grandmother as full of life.

“She was always singing and happy,” she said. “She was one of the first educators I had. Everything she taught me about daily life is still so important to me.”

Rula Salam can relate. Accompanied by her fiveyear- old daughter Nour and her mother Souad, Salam spoke of her grandmother. A widowedmother of nine, Hikmat, whose name means “wisdom” in Arabic,
lives in Salam’s hometown of Beirut, Lebanon. “Despite her losses, and the many operations she has had to have, she is a very strong woman, patient, and loves her family,” Salam said. “Her happiest moments are when the whole family are gathered at her house, and she can open her arms and embrace all her children and grandchildren.” Salam said she believes the stories passed from one generation to the next have timeless wisdom to bestow upon the listener. “I think carrying on the oral
tradition is very important because, simply, it preserves the simplicity and beauty of a life which we will never be able to know,” she said. “In this busy world, where we hardly have time for our own families, where we are always working and fatigued, it is so beautiful to hold on to those old traditions and values.”

The story-telling event didn’t only attract women. Edward Nkole, ArtSci ’10, wanted a break from studying and jumped at the chance to share stories with otherinternational students.

“I was inspired by the occasion, and it was a great time to get involved with events at the QUIC,” he said. “It didn’t really matter that only two men were present.” Born in Kasama, Zambia, Nkole spoke of his grandmother, whom he described as a positive role model.

“She was a representation of dedication, someone who worked hard,” he said. “She was a single parent, but was still able to take care of her four children.”

International Women’s Week, which runs globally from March 5 to 9, was celebrated on campus this week with various inclusive events around campus aiming to celebrate women’s achievements, equality and the individual experiences of students.

At Queen’s, the week was celebrated with several events, including a concert last night by performers Suzie Vinnick, Rick Fines, Nididi Onukwulu and three-time Juno-winner, Madagascar Slim.

The week-long event was the product of combined efforts from the Queen’s and Kingston communities.
“It was a fairly last-minute decision to form a committee and try to co-ordinate activities for people to do together,” said Lisa Webb, student advisor and program planner at the Ban Righ Centre. “We felt that International Women’s Week needed an injection of energy and new ideas.” Webb said this week is important both globally and locally. “When you look at the big problems like poverty and environmental degradation, women have a very different way of analyzing and assessing problems,
communicating, and working together,” she said. “I certainly feel it would be of great benefit to have women sitting at the tables where decisions are being made.”

On a smaller scale, Webb said the week’s aim is to promote what women are doing in terms of art, music and political advocacy locally, something she hopes will continue annually.

“It brings together the uniqueness of women.”

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