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International Women’s Day: In Conversation With Inspiring Individuals

Today marks our final instalment of our month-long International Women’s Day series, where we feature prominent, trailblazing women. In this final series, we spoke to Dr. Jill Andrew, MPP for Toronto-St. Paul’s, and Radha Chaddah, scientist and artist. S/ asked this pair of women two important questions: How do women inspire you in your personal life and your work? and how do you celebrate women all year round? Get inspired by their responses below.

Radha Chaddah, Artist and Scientist

Photo Courtesy of Radha Chaddah, By Melissa Vasiliev 

“The mental resilience, fortitude and intuition of women continues to inspire me in both my personal life and work. There is a grit, strength and pragmatism that motivates me.  Lately I have been working with an all women production team on a new piece about perspective in a pandemic time, called IAM.  One of the things that amazes me the most about our team is the abundance of wordless communication among us. It’s a beautiful thing.

I celebrate women all year round by recognizing the immeasurable contributions of women to society, many of which are unpaid and under-appreciated. The willingness of women to do what needs to be done, the never ending actions and thoughts dedicated to the improvement of the lives of their families and their communities deserves much more acknowledgement and gratitude than society routinely offers.”

To learn more about Radha: @radha.chaddah and radhachaddah.com

Dr. Jill Andrew
MPP for Toronto-St. Paul’s, Ontario NDP Official Opposition, Ontario NDP Black Caucus, Founding Member, Women’s Issues, Heritage, and Culture Critic.

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Jill Andrew

“My mother is and will always be my greatest inspiration. She raised me as a single Black mother. She taught me very early on that I’d need to ‘work 10 times harder’ as a Black person, and that even with my best efforts, racism, prejudice and implicit biases against girls/women and Black folks would influence other people’s perceptions of me and even possibly my outcomes. Funnily, these weren’t offered as depressive lessons. They were matter of fact and never took away any of my joy or the conviction I had to always try my best knowing I might fail.

“I watched my mother do just that over and over again. I saw her resilience, her exhaustion, her vulnerability, her strength. I saw her ability to make the best out of some pretty tough situations and I saw her actively showing through her own actions that asking for help, admitting when you couldn’t manage something alone wasn’t a show of weakness, but a demonstration of strength. I still have a lot of work to do on self-care to be honest, but to this day my mother reminds me to remember to eat slowly and to prioritize sleep! I’m definitely a work in progress on those fronts.

“Looking back at me and my mom’s experiences, and within the context of International Women’s Day, it is why I want to see women succeed here in Ontario. Success looks differently for all of us, but at its core, success should be deeply rooted in not only individual but community health and wellness. This means ensuring every woman, every mother, every girl has access to affordable housing and homes that are designed to allow for elders to age in place as much as possible, access to clean drinking water, equitable and inclusive education, fare wages and safe working conditions, nutritious and delicious foods, freedom from gender-based violence and economic abuse, access to necessary medication, dental care, eye care, and mental health services. For women to ‘succeed’ we must create the social conditions that make that possible. We cannot place more emphasis on the size, weight or shape of a woman’s body than her intellectual or professional rigour. This only breeds eating disorders, low self-esteem and the like – all the things that routinely silence women and girls. Instead we must readily and repeatedly fix each others crowns! Give each other our due flowers while we are still alive to accept and appreciate them!

“I am focusing on women-identifying folks in my responses for the purpose of IWD, but make no mistake this is what every individual here in Ontario should have access to. We need an Ontario with affordable childcare and we must have pay equity in this province. This year’s IWD theme is Break the Bias, affordable childcare and pay equity are integral to making this a reality!

“I could go on and on about the women who inspire me. If I listed every woman I’d be committing to a second dissertation! We come from all walks of life and one lesson my mother always taught me was, ‘You make friends with the person never their pocket, their title, or their influence.’ I’ve carried that with me throughout.

“As the first queer Black women to be elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and in any legislature in Canada, I cannot overstate the importance of women in politics, of Black and racialized women in politics, of queer women, and women with disabilities. Young women and girls can aspire to be in these seats because we are here. Representation rooted in equity and social justice (because representation alone isn’t enough) in politics is an investment every time. It’s never a subtraction.”

To learn more about Jill: @JillsLastWord and @JillAndrewTO. Hot Docs, Citizen Minutes, “Body Politics” (2021) directed by Aisha Fairclough featuring Dr. Jill Andrew, PhD. Available now on Crave. Body Stories In and Out and With and Through Fat’ co-edited by Drs. Jill Andrew & May Friedman.