By Katie Perry
BELLEVILLE – Downtown Belleville saw more men, women and even dogs come together on Wednesday to celebrate International Women’s Day than in previous years.
International Women’s Day is a day to empower women and celebrate their rights.
Chants filled the chilled air as men and women of all shapes and sizes held signs and marched through the streets at 4:30 p.m. One lane had been closed to traffic for the march, but some drivers in the other lane smiled and honked in support.
The voices of many shouted things like, “Women owe you nothing – No! Nothing” and “Women’s rights are human rights.” The call and response could be heard from a block away. Each response rang louder as the march progressed.
Sydney Jarvis was among the nearly 150 people who participated. “I didn’t expect to feel so included,” she said. “I came by myself so I thought I was going to feel alone, but I didn’t. It felt like a big community.”
“I felt alive,” Jarvis added. “I felt like I was doing something good. I felt a warm feeling in my stomach.”
The crowd returned to the Belleville Public Library, the march’s starting point, around 5 p.m. for a social hour. In the gallery on the third floor, food and warm beverages were laid out for the participants to enjoy. The food quickly ran out as the gallery filled up during the social hour.
Karen Fisk, an organizer of the event, apologized for the crowded space and for the shortage of food, but added, “I’m not really sorry – because that means there are a lot of you here, more than we expected.”
Around 6 p.m. there was a presentation by Katherine Govier, a Canadian novelist who founded the Shoe Project, which helps women who have immigrated to Canada tell their stories and cultivate their presentation and writing skills.
Govier explained that the women who participate in the Shoe Project are invited to bring the shoes they were wearing when they arrived in Canada and use them as the starting point for telling their stories. She shared some of those stories and talked about how the Shoe Project has grown since it started five years ago.