The Calgary Central Library’s International Women’s Day event brought together women of all ages to share their stories in an intergenerational storytelling event.
Women have long been underrepresented and marginalized in various sectors of society. According to Statistics Canada, women make up 34 per cent of Canadians with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree.
Recognizing these issues, education and women’s rights advocates Cathy Clonts and Ornela Thieba founded Women Owned Narratives, a community organization dedicated to promoting women’s education, equity and inclusion.
Intergenerational Storytelling is their second in-person International Women’s Day program. They describe it as a platform for networking and building communities, bridging the gap between different age groups and sharing the unique experiences of women from various backgrounds.
“I just find how we communicate is so important,” said Clonts. “If you don’t understand everything, you might have a judgment that turns out not to be true as you get to know the person longer down the road.”
There were over 200 attendees and the event featured booths from 20 organizations like Momentum, Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association and Women in Need Society. Speakers included authors Crystal Manyfeathers and Onyinye Odih.
The reception to the program’s International Women’s Day program has grown since its launch in February 2022.
“We started as a small group,” said Thieba. “I was invited last year as a speaker, sharing my experience as a newcomer youth in Canada, also being a student and first generation immigrant.”
Thieba notes Women Owned Narratives came from the success the group had giving women the agency to share their stories.
“We noticed people connected over stories and that was the main thing, and we really encourage women to take control of their own narratives,” said Thieba. “So this year we kind of solidified the group to create Women Owned Narratives and create more events.”
“It’s been a big evolution and I think that’s the beauty of grassroots movements.”
Despite the challenges that grassroots movements face, the organization believes their ability to grow and adapt has helped them contribute towards social change.
The program’s impact on the community is still in its early stages, but Clonts shared that one of the program’s significant accomplishments is having diverse voices at the table and in the audience.
As a white, middle-aged woman, Clonts noticed that many community programs often lack diversity, which is something she wants to change through Women Owned Narratives.
“We each have stories to tell and if we only listen to people in our own group, we only hear those stories through a book or an outside narrative,” says Clonts. “When you hear it from the person themselves, it’s much more meaningful.”
“I think it’s just so important to empower women and to give them the tools to succeed, and that’s what Women Owned Narratives is all about.”