Women who inspire us can be of all ages and come from every walk of life. They may be friends, family or colleagues, or high-profile leaders, such as activists, athletes, celebrities. They remind us of what is possible.
How do we define “feminine” in 2018? For the renowned actor, philanthropist and activist Jessica Chastain, “it goes beyond the old-fashioned idea of femininity, which was defined as being beautiful, delicate and sensual.” Today’s femininity “is about the strength, power, ambition and independence of the modern woman,” says Chastain.
Many of these characteristics that Chastain attributes to femininity are defining women role models. Fifteen-year-old Hannah Alper has inspired tens of thousands of young Canadians who have attended WE Day events across the country with her personal motto: “You’re never too young, or too old, or too anything, to make a difference!”
The motivational speaker shared the story of Malala Yousafzai’s strength and courage in her quest for education in a passionate WE Day talk. “I was so inspired by Malala’s courage when she advocated for education in Pakistan because she knew how important it was,” says Alper of the young woman she considers her primary role model. “She is one of the most renowned education activists in the world. She has created so much change.” In April of last year, Alper was invited by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to attend Yousafzai’s honorary Canadian citizenship ceremony and to interview her for WE TV after the event.
Role models help motivate her activism, says Alper, whose first book, Momentus: Small Acts, Big Change, was recently released. “They show that gender and age aren’t a barrier to making the world better. It’s not just about accomplishments, but about who you are, your characteristics. All of the women who inspire me are compassionate to everyone they meet; optimistic, hopeful and curious about the world – and always wanting to do more.”
Since joining the City of Vancouver as Indigenous relations manager in 2013, Ginger Gosnell-Myers has collaborated with Indigenous and settler communities as well as across all city departments to advance Vancouver as the world’s first official City of Reconciliation.
While her achievements in this and previous roles are an inspiration to people everywhere, Gosnell-Myers’s deep involvement in her own and the wider Indigenous community means her influence is particularly profound for young First Nations women looking for a path in a world that still too often underestimates them.
In addition to the many strong women in her family and community, Gosnell-Myers looks to Cindy Blackstock as her role model. A member of the Gitxsan nation, Blackstock is recognized world-wide as an effective and dedicated children’s rights activist and as a commissioner for the Pan American Health Organization Commission on Health Equity and Inequity.
“I met Cindy when I was in my early 20s and she was starting her advocacy for the rights of First Nations children, who were not receiving support on par with non-aboriginal children,” says Gosnell-Myers. “What inspired me most was her dedication to understanding the problem, focusing on what she could do and using every tool in the box to ensure that she would be a strong voice for these children and for systemic change. It was the first time I met someone so dedicated to bettering themselves and their skills in order to be effective. It showed me how I can be the best person to do the work I do.”
Asked for advice for younger women, Gosnell-Myers says, “Ensure you are taking care of yourself. I don’t often see women putting as much effort into themselves as they do into others. One of the great pieces of advice that Cindy Blackstock gave me was that education is a gift that you give to yourself. Nobody else can give it to you. But when you work hard and direct your education, you will have a better life and be more fulfilled. The more we learn, the better and happier we’ll be.”
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