UN begins gender equity tour at UW

Photo by: Varun Venkataraman

Over a hundred students gathered in the SLC/PAC parking lot on Sep. 16 to join delegates from UW and UN Women in launching the UN HeForShe GetFree Canadian tour.

The initial rally included an opportunity for attendees to network. 

The rally was followed by speeches in Federation Hall.

President Feridun Hamdullapur, offered opening remarks alongside representatives from UN Women. 

“I am so pleased and proud that they chose University of Waterloo as the first stop of this great GetFree Canada tour,” Hamdullahpur said. 

Elizabeth Nyamayaro, Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, offered her remarks as well.

She emphasized the need for a global movement, one where people of all genders unite to achieve equity for all genders. 

“It’s about creating a world where men, boys, and everyone of all genders can be true allies for gender equality,” Nyamayaro said. “It’s about buiding a truly global solidarity movement for gender equality that is welcoming to all of us.” 

Edgar Ramirez, Hollywood actor and UN representative, followed Nyamayaro’s remarks with a thorough discussion on how men advocating for gender equality is beneficial for men, women, and all genders.

He elaborated on how toxic masculinity negatively affects men and all the people around them. 

“This paradigm sets many men for failure…When men lack a healthy way to express despair or grief or rage, it is oftentimes [expressed] in the form of depression, or even suicide,” he said. “When men’s unchanneled emotion, particularly anger, turns outwards, it is often deadly.”

Four panelists took the stage after Ramirez to discuss how men can become allies for gender equality.

The panel was moderated by Corey Johnson, a professor in Applied Health Sciences, and included Bessma Momani, a professor of Political Science at UW, Jermal Alleyne, cofounder and board member of Next Gen Men, Sara Casselman, executive director at the Sexual Assault Support Center of Waterloo Region and Pamela Cook Ellmers, technical services manager at De Beers Canada Inc. 

Panelists touched on the systemic issues that continue to undermine gender equality. In addition to having more male allies, Momani mentioned that the top- and mid-level executives of most corporations and organizations are likely to be named John, David, or Robert.

She expressed the need to bridge the gap between top and bottom levels of organization. 

Most importantly, participants recognized the need for a united, global movement that addresses both oppression and privilege. 

“Gender equity cannot just look at the oppressed, but we must also look at the ways in which we are privileged and may, in fact, perpetuate oppression and othering,” Johnson said. “HeForShe is an invitation for men and people of all genders to stand in solidarity with women to create a bold, visible, and united force for gender equality.”

Nyamayaro voiced her hopes for a unified and representative movement in the future. 

“[I want] a movement that belongs to every single one of us, so that one day,” she said, “maybe we can all look back and be able to say: ‘there was a movement, and we were part of it; there was a movement and we created it; there was a dream, and we saw it come true.” 


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