We honour women across Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and the world on International Women’s Day. According to the United Nations, this day is when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. While this notion is admirable, the reality is that we cannot celebrate all women without focusing on how women from different backgrounds and experiences shape women’s rights and women’s participation in society, be it socially, economically, culturally, and politically.
At the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, we have learned from Black educators like Audre Lourde and others that racialized women in the world continue to experience patriarchy, racism, ableism, sexism, misogyny, misogynoir and other forms of oppression in interlocking ways. These lessons have called for solidarity and action to build a more just society.
Building a just society requires upsetting the status quo. We remember the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions. We remember when the Socialist Party of America honoured women on 28th February 1909. We remember Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo responding to crimes against humanity in Argentina. We remember Marielle Franco, who fought with poor Black women and advocated for LGBTQ+ rights in the favelas of Brazil. We remember Indigenous women (Idle No More) fighting the Canadian government’s dismantling of environmental protection laws, endangering First Nations living on Turtle Island. We remember racialized women working within the health care system that has borne the brunt of COVID.
We remember all the above women and more because while many may say progress has been made, women worldwide and in Hamilton are still underpaid, employed less, face sexual and physical violence, and other oppressions and inequities.
We honour the women working at HCCI. Since 2016 our Senior Program Coordinator Sarah Jama has spearheaded our Black Youth Mentorship Program – which mentored over 100 youth. She has fostered an environment of community and civic engagement by focusing on disability justice, housing, anti-racism and anti-oppression. During the COVID pandemic, Sarah Jama (Disability Justice Network of Ontario) and other community leaders started Caremongering Hamilton, a community-led mutual aid project that has fed hundreds of families in Hamilton.
We honour the women working at HCCI. Rose Senat has been with HCCI since 2019. During her time with the organization, she has supported Black youth in accessing post-secondary education. Through her youthful exuberance and passion for excellence, she has connected Black youth to Black mentors to shepherd youth as they think about their career pathways. In addition to her work with Black youth, Rose started her clothing brand “take up space,” – a socially conscious brand that artistically challenges the obscurity and erasure that women of colour experience in all spaces of our society.
We honour women working at HCCI. Sabreina Dahab joined HCCI in 2020 as the COVID Coordinator for Black Youth & Families. During the Ontario lockdowns Sabreina has supported over 100 Black families and youth with food supports, PPE, school supplies, tutoring, and tech supplies. As a former Westdale High School student, Sabreina and her colleagues have been tackling racism and Islamophobia at HWDSB schools. In 2020 her organizing alongside other students led to the removal of School Resource Officers from HWDSB schools.
We honour women working at HCCI. Sahra Soudi is working as the Administrative Coordinator for the Disability Justice Network. Sahra is passionate about disability justice and centers this framework when thinking about collaborations. As an emerging curator, they are interested in disrupting ableism and colonialism in institutional art spaces through practices that empower marginalized communities by combining accessibility, mutual aid, and restorative justice.
We honour women working at HCCI. Koubra Haggar joined the Hamilton Community Benefits Network as an organizer in 2020. Koubra is a student organizer and third-year Human Behaviour student at McMaster University. Since high school, she has been involved at different levels in her community due to her passion for social justice and equity. When she is out in the community, she is involved with the Defund Hamilton Police Services Coalition, McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice, and La FESFO (the Federation of Franco-Ontarian Youth).
We honour women working at HCCI. Batool Dahab is part of the Caremongering Team; in her role, she has been coordinating directly with people calling to request food deliveries across the City. Before joining Caremongering, Batool was one of the student members of HWDSB Kids Needs Help, now known as Hamilton Students for Justice (HS4J). The group works to disrupt all forms of systemic violence, including but not limited to anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, ableism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and transphobia.
We honour women working at HCCI. Rowa Mohamed is part of the Caremongering Team; she coordinates the kit deliveries and kit packing on Tuesdays and Thursdays and oversees inventory stocking. Rowa’s community work involves addressing police brutality, tackling systemic racism, and advocating for housing for the most vulnerable in Hamilton.
It is the work done by Black women and gender-diverse folks that have allowed HCCI to thrive as an organization and work alongside communities in collaborative ways. As we continue to build a just Hamilton for all it is important to center the voices, work, and expertise of women.