Status of Women rep promotes women’s issues

Ken Kellar

Local union members recently got together for a night of fun, learning and giving back to the community.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) held a workshop for their members as well as local CUPE and Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) members at the Fort Frances High School last week.

The workshop was put on by OSSTF Status of Women representative Andrea Laur, who said it was a good night.

“It was a huge success,” Laur said.

“This was a trial, the first time we had ever tried anything, so hopefully we’ll be able to run a second one in the spring, again offer it out to the people working within OSSTF, CUPE and ETFO.”

The workshop was advertised as “meal prep for the busy person on the go,” and each union member who attended was asked to bring in non-perishable food items and feminine hygiene products as a donation/entree fee.

“We partnered with a community member, Nadine Johnson, and she is a chef, and she basically agreed to provide her service to the program,” Laur said.

“The focus being promoting healthy meal ideas, how to save time and just tips on how to cook efficiently and whatnot. The donations that we requested were non-perishable food items and feminine hygiene products so that we could offer that, our donations, to Rainy River District Victim Services Program, and to support the community members.”

Laur explained that over the course of the two hour workshop, they did five dinner and three breakfast recipes that would appeal on multiple fronts.

“I was trying to find recipes that were appealing, flavourful, brightly-coloured and quick and easy to make, and ones that you could, again, pack and go, and that your family–or you know, children–would want to eat as well. So that was basically it–it was just people wanting to hang out and the camaraderie, and it just needed an event to pull everyone together, and it was, like I said, a big success.”

Laur said that she thought the workshop was as successful as it was because it offered some ways to make everyday life a little bit easier.

“People are looking to make their lives simpler,” she said.

“Being the Status of Women [rep], trying to support the women in my workplace, most of us are moms, or in charge of running a family and we’re busy. We work full time and we have extracurriculars, and the kids need to go to hockey and stuff like that, so if we can find a way, like someone to come in and show us how to save time, how to save money, how to be healthy, and get those tips and tricks together, it really does help make our lives simpler and more efficient.”

The Status of Women is a regional representative of the OSSTF, with a provincial representative as well, and Laur explained that her focus is on promoting women’s issues within the district, and by supporting members in the union and the community at large.

“My job is to bring some of the issues that are happening all around Ontario, that we hear about from provincial, and things that are happening and try to bring them in to our local level,” Laur said.

“Which is another reason for the feminine hygiene drives. We’re asking that for a donation because that is something that is happening at the provincial level, that it’s kind of the thing now that we’re trying to draw awareness to. People need these products, some people cannot find them easily, or access them or afford them, so being able to provide them to places that can hand them to women is a big deal.”

In addition to doing workshops with members, Laur noted that Status of Women supports the community by taking part in community events.

“For me, [it’s about] promoting women’s issues,” Laur said.

“So making sure that if they have concerns, their concerns are being heard. This month is ending violence against women, so wearing purple, just sort of banding together and trying to support one another. I went with Kent [Kowalski] my union president, we marched in the Pride Parade. We held the OSSTF flag, we went and supported the LGBTQ community, so that’s another thing that Status of Women did.”

Going forward, in addition to actively taking part in community events like the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against women on December 6, in memory of the École Polytechnique massacre, Laur said that she and her committee will look at planning more useful workshops for union members who wish to participate.

“There’s four other women with me and we sit on the Status of Women committee, and we plan the events that will be going on throughout the whole year,” she explained.

“But we’ve also talked about things like maybe a financial planning evening, a yoga evening, we do have one in the agenda for the spring for beading and stuff like that, so we do have other events and workshops that we would like to run. As far as another food one, because it was so well attended in the end, definitely keeping it themed around food. Everyone loves to eat, so it’s a great one to do. I’m not 100% sure yet on what the topic will be, but I would like to do a lot of other workshops, truthfully.”