News Story

British Columbians Celebrate International Women’s Day

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the World Sikh Organization of Canada joined together on March 8, 2021, to celebrate International Women’s Day. The free virtual event was sponsored by the Surrey, Abbotsford and Vancouver stakes of British Columbia.

The event, which was themed “Fear Is a Reaction, Courage Is a Decision,” highlighted two inspiring women who are choosing to be courageous and make a difference in their communities: Sonja Gaudet and Amrit Kaur. Gaudet and Kaur were presented with awards and letters of recognition from the mayors of their respective cities.

Sonja Gaudet of Vernon, B.C., was presented with the Humanitarian Award for outstanding achievements through her extraordinary circumstances. As a Canadian Gold Paralympic athlete, she inspires and enhances the lives of others with her motto: “Believe. Adapt. Overcome.” She is Canada’s most-decorated wheelchair curler and has been inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame. In 2018, Canada Post included her in a collection of stamps that honour some of Canada’s most accomplished women athletes in winter sports.

Gaudet shared ways to keep moving forward despite the challenges faced in life. She said, “Know that other people have gone through the same challenge that you are going through. … If you don’t ask and you don’t reach out, you think you are the only one struggling. … If you ask for help, then others can guide you and show you what works. … It gives you the sense that you are not alone, and you learn strategies that you had never thought of before. … Isolating and being fearful is just a reaction, but having the courage … to ask for help is the first action step towards many to follow.”

Amrit Kaur of Surrey, B.C., was presented with the Courage Award for her ability to maintain her Sikh articles of faith while continuing to challenge Quebec’s secularism law (formerly known as Bill 21) through legal means. While living in Quebec, Kaur was directly affected by the secularism law introduced in 2018. The law affected her ability to continue working as a high school teacher because it required that she remove her dastaar (Sikh turban). To be true to her principles, she moved to British Columbia in 2019, where she is able to progress in her career while maintaining her Sikh articles of faith.

During the event, Kaur encouraged women to embrace their diversity and be confident in it. She said, “I come from a heritage and a lineage of people who have stood up for their beliefs, and they’ve stood up to oppression in very high spirits. … There is no reason why I can’t exhibit that same energy. … What I am saying is not just about me but about other people that are in the same position. … No child or individual deserves to feel that they are not enough because of who they are or to think that they can’t contribute to society just because they look different. If we don’t speak up, students will no longer feel that they can be themselves.”

Susan Terry, the Communication director for the Surrey British Columbia Stake, felt inspired to organize the International Women’s Day event. She said, “[The event’s] theme of ‘Fear Is a Reaction, Courage Is a Decision,’ speaks to me of the resilience from obstacles put in our path and the strength to finish the race. … It’s been such a difficult year that the opportunity to hear from such courageous women helps lift and inspire us all. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to celebrate!”

Francheska Hensen, a Church youth from Burnaby, B.C., wrote and composed an original song titled “Choose Brave” for International Women’s Day. Her YouTube recording of the song, which honours all women who show courage, was shown at the event. Hensen said, “Fear, uncertainty, insecurity — they are always going to be there, pushing us down, making us give up and trying to take control of our lives. But courage is the antidote that helps us face this troubling world we live in, to push fear aside and move forward more confidently, more in control.”

Approximately 100 individuals attended the virtual event and participated in Zoom breakout rooms to build relationships and share personal stories of courage.

Manpreet Multani of the World Sikh Organization of Canada said, “Putting together an event through interfaith collaboration allows us to learn about one another’s faiths, which helps foster more appreciation and understanding of diverse practices. As well, we get to work together for the common goal of highlighting and celebrating the achievements of brilliant women in our communities.”

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