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Celebrating women’s rights in Belleville

About 40 people came out on Tuesday evening to join the International WOmen's Day march to support women's rights worldwide. Photo by Stephanie Clue, QNet News.

Around 40 people came out on Tuesday evening to join the International Women’s Day march to support women’s rights worldwide. Photo by Stephanie Clue, QNet News.

By Stephanie Clue [1]

BELLEVILLE – About 40 people came out to celebrate International Women’s Day [2] on Tuesday.

The men and women marched up Pinnacle Street in support of women’s rights. Belleville resident Lindy Powell said she was there to show solidarity with women worldwide.

“I’m marching because I believe that women all over the world need support, and we here are lucky enough to be able to give it even in small ways,” Powell said.

Mieke Thorne, the organizer of the event, said the Belleville International Women’s Day Committee is fortunate to be able to have the marches with no problems. In some countries women could get thrown into prison for participating in such events, she said.

Belleville resident Lindy Powell explains that women in others countries spend hours a day collecting water that isn't always clean. Photo by Stephanie Clue, QNet News

Belleville resident Lindy Powell explains that women in others countries spend hours every day collecting water that isn’t always clean. Photo by Stephanie Clue, QNet News

“We march because we can, because in other countries it is not safe and they might not be able to.”

After the march, the participants heard from guest speaker Samra Zafar [3], a native of Pakistan who arrived in Canada as a child bride in an arranged marriage.

“I arrived here 16 years old. Strange country, strange people, no family, with one dream in my eyes, one hope: that I would be able to go to university and get an education.”

She was prevented from going to university for many years because her husband refused to pay her tuition. Finally, thanks to earning money from babysitting and tutoring in her home, she was able to save enough to pay for her first semester at the University of Toronto [4].

She was living with her husband and his family, as well as the couple’s two daughters. Her husband’s family opposed her getting an education.

Women's-rights activist Samra Zafar spoke about her own experience with abuse at the International Women's Day event at the Belleville library Tuesday. Photo by Stephanie Clue, QNet News

Women’s-rights activist Samra Zafar spoke about her own experience with abuse at the International Women’s Day event at the Belleville library Tuesday. Photo by Stephanie Clue, QNet News

“For six months no one in the house talked to me. There were times when I thought that maybe I was doing the wrong thing – that I’m committing some kind of a crime by even going to school. But I stood my ground. And finally that day came when I was sitting in my first lecture at U of T,” she said.

Zafar graduated with a master’s in economics in 2013; during her time at the university she left her husband and moved with her daughters into campus housing.

She now works for RBC Royal Bank, was recently elected a governor at U of T, and speaks about women’s rights.

She will soon launch an organization called Brave Beginnings [5] to help women get out of abusive relationships through support and friendship. She aims to inspire women with her speeches and let them know they aren’t alone.

“Every woman in this world deserves a life of respect and dignity, no matter what the situation.”

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