Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

International Women's Day

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A big storm passed through Ontario yesterday. I was scheduled to speak in Oakville at their International Women's Day event, and as I was chipping the ice off my car, I had one of those grumpy internal dialogues - "Why did I agree to go to Oakville? I don't want to be driving today! Why don't I just stay home - after all, it's just another International Women's Day event!"
That last line shut up my whining, as I remembered another Women's Day event, in Peshawar, Pakistan, in l999. Women from the Afghan refugee community and from the Pakistan women's community came together to celebrate International Women's Day with a big rally in downtown Peshawar, with speeches, children performing a play, singing - it was wonderful. I got to play a small role, bringing greetings from women in Canada. After the event, I was able to sit with some of the women who had snuck out of Afghanistan simply to attend the rally. This was in the time of the Taliban, when Women's Day could not be celebrated, and they left their homes at great risk, and undertook a long, uncomfortable, dangerous journey, simply to attend the rally. I asked them why they had done this. They said that the energy and support they got from the rally would sustain them through the dark struggles ahead, and that they could take that energy and share it with other women in Afghanistan, and help sustain them, too. It was a reminder, they said, that they were still alive, that they had not been forgotten, and that maybe their suffering would one day ease off a bit and allow them to feel the sun again.
I remembered those women while I was grumbling about the ice, and I reminded myself that there is no such thing as just another Women's Day, not while there are still women on the planet who cannot celebrate it, and who are still struggling to grab hold of their basic rights for dignity and freedom. The ice eventually came away, the Oakville event was amazing, and the small effort it took to get there faded beside what I took away from it.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Deborah Ellis

Deborah Ellis is the acclaimed author of over 18 books and the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the Vicky Metcalfe Award for a body of work, the Governor General’s Award, the Africana Book Award, the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Honour, and the Red Cedar Award. She has traveled the world to meet with and hear the stories of children marginalized by war, illness, and poverty, and has recorded their stories for others to read and learn from.

Go to Deborah Ellis’s Author Page