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Whistler's female leaders reflect on International Women's Day

International Women's Day will be celebrated worldwide March 8

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For Sue Maxwell, who was elected to Whistler’s first female-majority council in November, true equality among the sexes will come the day women are recognized for their achievements without the caveat of gender attached to them.

“I think the great thing about Whistler is that we have more women elected to office, but it hasn’t really been a big deal,” said Maxwell on the eve of International Women’s Day (IWD).

“Eventually, when we get to equality it won’t be a big deal and that to me will be a measure of success.”

With Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden at the helm for a second term, and women in positions of tremendous influence at every turn, it can be easy to take for granted the opportunities in Whistler that don’t exist for women in other parts of the world, and keeping that in mind is key as the international community commemorates the fight for gender equality on March 8, said Whistler Writers Festival founder and award-winning author Stella Harvey.

“We should be thinking about places where women don’t have the same rights and freedoms,” she said, specifically pointing to the high prevalence of rape in India as a painful reminder that there’s still much more progress to be made.

“For me, what I think (International Women’s Day) should mean is that women have the opportunity to do whatever they want and be safe in doing those things — that should be top of mind,” added Harvey.

Moving to Whistler has also reminded AWARE executive director Claire Ruddy of just how fortunate we are to live in a community where, for the most part, you’re judged first and foremost on your actions as opposed to your sex.

“I feel really lucky to have relocated to a community where we’re given a chance,” she said. “Any person, no matter the gender, can choose to really try and make a difference in the community, and the community is really open to that.”

International Women’s Day is celebrated in countries across the globe, and tens of thousands are expected to march in support of gender equality. The United Nations theme for this year’s event is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” Officials and activists will also commemorate the 20th anniversary year of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, an historic roadmap that set the agenda for women’s rights.

Locally, musician Susan Holden is hosting an all-women’s open mic to mark IWD on behalf of the Whistler Women’s Centre at Black’s Pub on Sunday, March 8 at 8 p.m.

The resort also played host to the WNORTH Conference on March 6, an unprecedented meeting of top women business leaders.

For more information, visit www.internationalwomensday.com.

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