Westbank First Nation chief Roxanne Lindley leads drumming during Kelowna’s women’s day festivities. - Image: Kathy Michaels

A day for women to thrive

Close to 100 people gathered downtown Kelowna to celebrate International Women’s Day

Women are well represented in Kelowna municipal politics, and that’s a significant statement about gender equality in the city, said speakers at Thursday’s International Women’s Day event.

“We have four strong women and four men who support strong women,” said Coun. Mohini Singh, at the event held at Stuart Park.

It’s a significantly higher proportion than other parts of the country. Status of Women Canada reports that in 2015, women made up 28 per cent of municipal councillors nationwide and only 18 per cent of mayors.

Being among a group of strong female leaders sets the stage for future generations, said Singh, noting that representation is the best way to create positive change.

“Women need to get out, be heard, be seen and be counted,” she said. “When you are under-represented in seats of power, then legislation and policy and every important decision that is made does not include your school of thought. It’s important to encourage our young women to get out there and be a part of the community.”

Mayor Colin Basran proclaimed Thursday International Women’s Day in Kelowna and said that strong female leadership can be seen all around city hall, not just within council chambers.

“I am very blessed to have independent, intelligent women working at City Hall making decisions and helping council lead this community,” he said.

That said, there are places where Kelowna lags.

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released its annual report on the best and worst places to be a woman in Canada in October 2017. According to the centre, earnings for men and women in Kelowna are below the national average. The wage gap between genders in Kelowna is larger than the national average as well with women earning 66 per cent of what men earn.

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That same study showed that 40 per cent of women in Kelowna hold full-time jobs and unemployment rates for women are below those of men, which is on trend with Canada’s national average.

Her International’s Tamara McLellan said that for all the legitimate frustration women have, she was pleased to have a day where women were celebrated.

“We have speakers who will talk about women who are thriving in this atmosphere,” she said.

“I feel like I am a woman who is empowered. I have got to know a lot of women’s organizations here and there are so many women with big hearts who are changing lives. And I think that Kelowna is an amazing environment for women to thrive.”

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Her International is a non-profit organization that supplies women and girls with resources such as education and micro-financing opportunities. These women mostly live in Nepal.

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