Centennial Supports Social Justice: Carlene Daley and International Women’s Day

Picture of girls and women at Strong Girls, Strong Women event

A history of support

“I am a writer, and I focused a lot on women’s issues,” she says of herself. “I came to Centennial College years ago, and took the Corporate Communications program for writing and marketing, and then become a writer over the years. I write for the newspapers, and focus a lot on women’s issues, empowerment issues, gender equality, that sort of stuff.” The events of International Women’s Day were her own idea, based on her own interests.

“Coming back to school for social work, I just wanted to put together the two passions, which is my love for writing and dealing with women’s issues and social injustice,” she explains. “That’s the reason why I put this together, because I thought it would be a great idea to have a women’s empowerment symposium here, to highlight issues that a lot of times are swept under the rug, and a lot of times we don’t want to talk about, like domestic violence, domestic abuse, or sexual abuse.”

She submitted a formal proposal, and not only did the college approve it, but they helped her put it together.

Centennial helps

“It wasn’t challenging to organize, but getting all the moving parts to come together was tough,” Carlene says. “Who could come when, looking at student schedules, organizing the best times to have it, those sorts of things.”

“From the get-go, Centennial College was just very supportive,” she continues. “They worked with me in getting the food, getting things organized, booking the space that I needed.I was responsible for organizing things, but I had to have the support of the college.”

“Anything that’s going to go wrong will go wrong, and there were things that needed to be fixed, but that was alright.” That’s because it all turned out to be worth it in the end.

“We had to look at the challenges we would have in terms of getting the most engaging format, and having the students support it, especially the men, without them feeling as though they’re being badgered,” Carlene says. “We wanted to do it in a way that encouraged everyone to come out. And they did.”

The big event

International Women’s Day events happened over three days, from Wednesday, March 29 to Friday, March 31. Wednesday featured a series of dialogues and symposiums on topics like sexual assault, empowerment and self-awareness, and even a dub poetry night to finish things off.

“It was an informative event filled with engaging conversations that deal with domestic violence, and looking at it through a critical lens, looking at why domestic violence happens, how can you empower yourself to make better choices for yourself, and as well, what resources are out there,” Carlene explains.

“It got really heated, and not in a bad way,” Carlene says. “The conversations were flowing, people were giving their opinions, and this is what you want. You don’t want a cookie-cutter type of symposium. You want people to talk it out, and that’s what happened.”

After the panel, they honoured a student at the college who exemplifies strength and goodness. “We chose a woman by the name of Angela Marone,” Carlene continues. “She is a student that we’re all very close to, and she’s a part of a club I’m also a founding member of, the Social Service Worker Alliance. Social service work had never had a club before, so we formed a group that all the social service workers are a part of.”

“We also included the LGBTQ community on Wednesday,” she adds, “with a symposium and workshop on violence against that community on Wednesday, because if we’re talking about inclusion, we have to talk about everyone.”

Hope for the future

“The reviews that have been coming back are just wonderful,” Carlene says of her event.  “Just having the students come out and see the light on their faces when each workshop was finished. Everyone walked away with something. It was a gateway for them to feel safe, to discuss and bring out the issues that you sometimes don’t want to talk about, that get swept under the rug.”

The part of the event that Carlene enjoyed the most was hearing stories from the women around her, like one woman who spoke about being incarcerated in her home country. “Hearing about these challenges, and how they overcame them, that’s the biggest thing for me, and seeing that they can do it gives you hope,” she says. “There is strength within you, and you walk away knowing you can handle almost anything life throws at you.”

The event was successful enough that Carlene wants to turn it into an annual tradition.

“This is the first year it’s been done, and everyone that was involved are asking me to do it again,” she says. “I only have another year, and I can put it together next year, but I’m trying to compel in the college to continue it on. It’s something that we started, and it should be something all colleges do. There’s a legacy to it, if we want to bring it to that step.”

By Anthony Geremia