by Nancy Peckford

On behalf of myself and my Council colleagues, we join with communities across Canada, and around the world, to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021 – a time to mark the social, cultural and political achievements of women.

North Grenville’s Council is proud to have near gender parity, with three women and two men as elected officials as it turns out. Furthermore, our community has some outstanding leaders whose efforts are particularly notable during these pandemic times.

These include Dr Suzanne Rutherford who oversees the COVID Assessment and Vaccination centre, and Co Chairs Wendy Embleton and Samantha River-Stevenson of the Kemptville District Community Association, among so many others.

As a mother of two school age daughters and one son, I see this Day as a chance to reflect on how we can ensure that gender is not a barrier for any person.

Being a parent, I have noticed how boys can still be shut down for being ‘too sensitive’, and girls are sometimes urged to be less “headstrong’. That being said, I have also been struck by how many men are open to change, and are actively embracing new norms, at the same time as many women are working to achieve new heights.

Ensuring more women are in leadership positions in the public and private sectors often creates the opportunity for more inclusive and dynamic communities. This, more often than not, benefits men and women both.

This past year has challenged all of us. The weight of this global pandemic has brought increased stressors, along with financial and economic challenges. Leadership matters more than ever. This is because, even with readily available vaccines, our country and our world will never be quite the same again.

While the pandemic’s impacts have, undoubtedly, been felt by everyone, much of the burden has been born, unfortunately, by women. Front-line essential workers in long term care homes, restaurants, and grocery stores tend to be women, and are more economically vulnerable than in other sectors.

Many mothers, and female care-givers, have confronted increasing demands as they try to juggle work, parenting, caring for older parents, and homeschooling. Others have been hard hit as entrepreneurs or small business owners. The support of grandparents, other extended family and community organizations hasn’t been available in the same way.

Mental health challenges have intensified. These will endure well beyond the pandemic. Virtual services simply aren’t the same, and are sometimes almost entirely inaccessible with unreliable rural internet. At times, it has felt impossible.

In fact, the pandemic has created a perfect storm for some women and families as economic, social, and caregiving pressures have further compounded one another.
Many seniors, especially those with pre-existing health conditions, living independently, or in long term care homes, have become more isolated than ever.

A housing shortage is another challenge. Widows, single parents, and youth were already having difficulty finding affordable rental accommodations in North Grenville. With a significant surge in house prices in North Grenville and much of Ontario, many rental properties have been sold and tenants are being evicted. This is affecting not just women, but children, families and older residents.

As we begin to rebuild and recover from COVID-19, let us work together as a community and country so people at all life stages are supported, and men and women are free to realize their full potential.

We hope that local and regional efforts, including the outcomes from the North Grenville’s own Mayoral Taskforce on Affordable Housing, will improve options and create urgently needed new rental units in particular.

Council is excited to work with North Grenville’s new Director of Planning, Amy Martin who brings a lot of talent and energy to this challenge.

No matter what the issue, let’s pave the way for our girls to see that glass ceilings can continue to be shattered, and for our boys and men to not be constrained by rigid stereotypes that can also limit their behavior and choices. Ultimately, may we all feel empowered to choose our own paths.

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, which is recognized annually on March 8, I invite you to reach out to some of the incredibly bright, strong, and fierce women who help make up the fabric of our vibrant community, and tell them how much you appreciate their efforts.

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