No one left behind: Womxn take a step forward in Calgary

Raising voices: Adora Nwofor, co-founder and grand marshal of March on Canada – Calgary poses at Calgary Womxn: Taking Strides on Jan. 18. The event at the Central Library offered speakers and programming to increase accessibility and participation in the community. (Photo by Lia Pereira/The Press)

Walking across Stephen Avenue on a cold Saturday morning at the Womxn’s March in Calgary, happening for the fourth time, Adora Nwofor led the crowd straight to the Central Library.

Facing the freezing cold temperature of -25C, the co-founder of the event had, behind her, hundreds of people raising their voices for womxn’s issues. (“Womxn” is an alternative word for “women” that is intended to be more inclusive.) At the end of the march a four-storey building full of people was waiting for them.

Calgary Womxn: Taking Strides is an event focused on promoting the debate and visibility of diverse matters faced by womxn from different communities across Calgary.

Calling attention to education, community building, solidarity and action, the program had a full afternoon of art, performances and conversations, and also a resource fair.

According to Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi, “Women’s issues are human issues and their issues are for every single one of us to look at.” The politician mentioned the great job of the organizers morphing the march into a bigger event.

He also highlighted “how satisfying it was to see the next generation engaging everyone in this important discussion.”

Performed by the first time and considered a step forward for the community, Taking Strides reflects the strength, determination and audacity of its grand marshal.

Feminist, comedian, mother of three, Adora Nwofor has been involved with feminist causes and art since 2007, when she started her path as comedian.

“The first Women’s March, in 2017, was the biggest march in Calgary’s recent history,” she remembers.

“To be part of it was fantastic, impactful and emotional,” she said.

Having suffered racism and misogyny, Nwofor explains that it is not always about words, but often about behaviour. For her, the strength is found in expanding the group of people, sharing experiences and not censoring people, but offering them a safe space where they can express themselves and learn from each other’s stories.

For her, being part of the Women’s March was the right thing to fight for. “Women are 50 per cent  of the population and oppressed at every turn. So, I’m a woman, I’m oppressed, and I have to do something to change that,” she said.

These past experiences sparked Nwofor to become a part of the 2020 event, mobilizing people to stand united for womxn.

Eddy Robinson and Rachel Kolodychuk, representing the LGBTQ2S+ community, believe the event was a big advance for their community’s cause.

“The conversation being in a public space like the public library really brought people in, who wouldn’t have otherwise participated in the conversation that we had today,” highlighted Robinson.

The group brought an open conversation about pronouns and how pronouns impact the queer community.

As explained by Robinson, “Talking about language brings attention to the everyday difficulties that the trans and the gender dynamic community face. But it also helps people become aware of how they can do better by understanding their language.”

The understanding of language as a tool of accessibility runs through Nwofor’s main goal for the event, the main goal being disability rights. She pointed to the struggle to find American Sign Language interpreters and visibility aids as a signal of how many communities are still out of the conversation because they cannot actively participate.

Thinking about disabilities reflects, for Nwofor, the advances of the community as a whole. “If you take care of the most oppressed person, you’re going to be okay.”

It was through art and dance that the Latin community raised its voice, exposing current political issues like protests against rape, abortion rights and political and economic issues that have been affecting millions of people in South America.

Mirian Machuca Peña, a Chilean artist living in Calgary, found through drawing and painting the path to portray her feelings about how women have been treated across her home country.

“There has been a lot of human right violations that have been committed. As a woman, as a mother and as an immigrant it’s been very difficult for me. I tried to put it on canvas because it is what I can do to show people here, what is happening over there.” said Peña.

Providing a safe space to build connections, express and empower people by sharing experiences was the main goal of the event.

Despite dealing with hate messages and aggressive criticism throughout all these years of activism, Nwofor maintains the energy to fight.

“Men have had many opportunities to do things in this world, and they have messed up a lot of them and we could have had a fantastic world. And if women have the same opportunity to mess it up, what would we have [done]?”

 Raging for better: Granny Rainbow, left, Granny Donna, center, Granny Gail, right, from Calgary Raging Grannies pose for a picture at the resource fair at Calgary Womxn: Taking Strides on Jan. 18. The event at the Central Library offered speakers and programming to increase accessibility and participation in the community. (Photo by Lia Pereira/The Press)