Jonna Gomes – Reporter
A local anti-violence nonprofit organization hosted the all-day International Women’s Festival Pacific Northwest in the Gaiser Student Center on March 10 and launched a local chapter of the “No More” movement.
President and Co-founder of the Vancouver-based National Women’s Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation Michelle Bart said the festival celebrates women sharing their stories to create a better future in honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day.
The festival featured several speakers celebrating women’s accomplishments, empowering women and speaking out against violence. The speakers facilitated 30-minute workshops about self-esteem and empowerment.
Bart said the most rewarding moment during the festival was seeing young girls watching a speech by Vancouver’s first female mayor, Anne McEnerny-Ogle.
“To bring all of these people together and to see the kids here, that’s what it’s about: letting them know the world is a much better place for a woman today,” Bart said.
She said when she was young there weren’t women in high positions to be her role model. “Today that’s not the case,” Bart said. “We have over 600 women running for office around the country. I think it’s so inspiring.”
Bart sad violence against women and children is preventable with proper laws, advocacy and conversations at home.
Oregon author Reema Zaman said during her speech, “I am here to tell you the story of my voice and I cannot tell you that story without telling you the story of my silence.”
Zaman shared that theme with most speakers, who described their experiences of sexual violence and triumph in overcoming it. “To speak is a revolution; an act of love,” Zaman said. “I will speak because though I will encounter fear and hatred, the reward is freedom. And freedom is contagious.”
Closing keynote speaker Erika Worth is a local author and executive director of “Roar,” a Vancouver-based “Fierce Female Storytelling” theater production. Worth shared her story of childhood sexual abuse that lead to addiction and suicidal thoughts. Through self reflection, healing and ultimately liberation, Worth said she created “Roar” to promote women speaking up for themselves.
Women’s activist Cindi Fisher said she was inspired by the festival’s unity and initiative to create change. She said she enjoyed when Worth said “We are the ones we are waiting for. We have to build the community and world that we want.”