From August 5 to 8, over 300 participants from coast to coast to coast gathered for the largest women’s conference Unifor has hosted to date.
The conference kicked off on Sunday, August 5, with new delegate orientation sessions followed by keynote speaker, Angela Robertson.
“We need to engage in conversations about what factors hinder our fight for equality and negatively impact our mental and physical health,” said Lisa Kelly, Director of Women’s Department. “A key goal for us here has been to understand better how change happens, so we can equip ourselves to move from analysis to action.”
Interactive panels and workshops focused on how change happens and ways to take on challenges as women. Interspersed throughout the conference were caucus meetings of Workers with DisAbility, Young Workers, Aboriginal and Workers of Colour and Pride committees.
“At this conference, we, as women, had a chance to critically discuss the obstacles we face in our workplaces, in the private domain and every realm of society,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director.
Facilitators led workshops on harassment and gender-based violence, health and safety for women, and inclusive approaches to disability and gender. Sessions also discussed pay equity, retirement security, the penalties women face for also being mothers and next steps after a local forms a women’s committee.
“It is important that we acknowledge the commonalities, but also the diversity of our experiences individually and collectively as working class women,” said Lana Payne, Atlantic Regional Director.
Highlights of the conference included an address from Jerry Dias, National President and a discussion on feminist approaches to mental health and addiction, led by Cynthia Langill, Addictions Counsellor from Renascent.
Delegates from across Canada also took courses on how to leverage social media to amplify our voices as working class women activists and leaders.
“Throughout this conference, we took a holistic approach in thinking about our entire being, and how challenges targeting one aspect of our being impact other aspects as well,” said Joie Warnock, Western Regional Director.
Women talked about the need to get more women active in politics, with all three Unifor Regional Directors, Quebec representative France Paradis and Tracey Ramsey, Member of Parliament, Essex and Unifor member. The conference ended with a panel discussion on strategies to further the feminist agenda within the context of labour, as well as a presentation from the teenage children of delegates that garnered a standing ovation.
“The conference offered a platform for activists to design and implement creative solutions to overcome these challenges women face in various domains. That’s a discussion we need to be having at every level,” said Veronique Provost, Vice President, Local 6004 and Chair of the Ontario Regional Women's Committee.