Despite the cold weather, hundreds gathered in downtown Hamilton for the twenty second annual Gandhi Peace Festival on Saturday, Oct. 4. in support of the peace movement.

“I am happy today to be here in the company of people who understand that we live in a time where there are more wars than ever,” said guest speaker Itah Sadu, an entrepreneur and community builder in the Toronto area, in her keynote speech. “In the spirit of Gandhi and Mandela, we can walk in a non-violence expression of resistance.”

The festival had humble beginnings as a community event, but has grown to include a range of entertainment, guest speakers, an award ceremony and a peace walk.

“In the beginning, we used to do a potluck dinner,” said Jay Parekh, the Chair of the Gandhi Peace Festival Organizing Committee. “The numbers have grown […] this year a little bit less because of the cold weather, but last year we had over 500 [people].”

The festival aims to promote non-violence, peace, and justice, and build community among peace and human rights organizations. This year, the theme was Nelson Mandela’s Life and Legacy.

Leo Johnson, a new member of the festival organizing committee, was invited specifically to help the festival with this new theme. For the last four years, the festival has been centered upon the life of Gandhi, but this year they have taken a new approach.

One of Johnson’s goals is to encourage the peace movement in Hamilton to grow beyond the single-day festival.

“What I’m hoping to do with my involvement is make a platform where people from all walks of life in Hamilton can project themselves […] not just at this event but on an ongoing basis, said Johnson. “Be it the ebola situation in West Africa, the situation in Syria, the situation in Ukraine, I believe that the festival and peace movement in Hamilton should be present.”

Johnson was a refugee who fled from Liberia during the civil war, and came to Hamilton in 2006. Since then, he has started his own community building organization called Empowerment Squared and has received numerous awards including the YMCA Peace Medal. He is also a graduate from McMaster University in the Political Science program.

The festival has been around since 1993, and continues to work towards creating a permanent community of peace in Hamilton.

“I don’t believe the culture of peace and the movement of peace is the lifespan of an event,” said Johnson. “I think it’s every day.”

The festival is sponsored by the McMaster Centre for Peace Studies, the India-Canada Society Hamilton and the City of Hamilton.

Internationally and locally, non-profit organizations are looking for assistance, but often it is difficult to cut through the clutter of the many fundraising projects fighting for attention.

Audrey Tan, a third-year student in the Health, Aging, and Society program decided to take a unique approach to fundraising for two organizations, by starting her own used jewelry sale called All that Glitters.

“I got the idea because my friend in Ottawa held a similar [project] last year called All that Glam, which was in support of a children’s breakfast program up north. She raised $9,000 in one morning,” said Tan. “I thought, wouldn’t this be a great opportunity for us to replicate something like this in Hamilton.”

In partnership with the McMaster Campus Ministries Council and McMaster University’s Anti-Violence Network, All that Glitters will collect jewelry, scarves, and hand bags in support of two organizations, one international and one local.

Internationally, All that Glitters supports Atzin, a non-profit humanitarian group founded by Dr. Susan Smith, who was formerly involved in McMaster’s nursing department.  Atzin supports people in rural Mexico and aims to help citizens obtain better life opportunities.

In particular, the scholarship program that provides financial support to young girls who would otherwise be unable to attend middle school is in need of assistance.

“They’ve lost their major sponsor,” said Tan. “This program is in a very precarious position right now, which makes the fundraiser all the more important.”

Locally, proceeds from the sale will support the Native Women’s Shelter in Hamilton.

“November is also Women’s Abuse Awareness and Prevention month, so we want to use this fundraiser not only to raise funds for these two great organizations but raise awareness about the issue of women abuse in Canada,” said Tan.

Donations will be collected until Nov. 11 at various locations across McMaster’s campus and downtown Hamilton. On Nov. 22, the items will be sold at Freeway Coffee House, with all proceeds donated to the two organizations.

“It’s been really positive so far,” said Tan. “We’ve got some momentum going and hopefully it just keeps on going through until November.”

A new report on women’s leadership in the Hamilton and Halton region reveals that women are underrepresented in senior leadership positions across a variety of sectors.

The report, co-authored by Karen Bird, associate professor of political science at McMaster, and Samantha Jackson, PhD candidate, looks at 2,565 women in senior leadership positions across nine different sectors. It finds that women are underrepresented in all sectors, except for the voluntary sector.

“It is really important to have these numbers, because we think it is 2014 and we have achieved equality, and there’s kind of a movement or buzz that there’s no need for feminism anymore,” said Bird. “I think our numbers should cause us to think about that, [and] reflect on that.”

Women are especially underrepresented in senior leadership positions in the corporate sector, with an average of 17.8 percent of women in top positions, and the private legal sector with a dismal 24.2 percent representation.

“There are barriers in private law firms to women achieving partnership. Even though women enter into the law firms, at the entry level, in reasonable numbers, […] they are not making it to partner,” said Bird. “It stood out as a very stark lack of inclusiveness of women.”

Women make up more than half of law school graduates, yet are still underrepresented in senior positions in the legal sector. Judiciary positions are the most representative at 40.4 percent, followed by 33.3 percent of Crown and Deputy Crown positions.

“There’s this very kind of popular argument that women need to lean in, we want to say that organizations need to lean in too,” said Bird.

These findings are consistent with a similar study of women’s leadership in the greater Toronto area completed at the University of Toronto in 2012.

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One sector where the Hamilton and Halton region fares better than the GTA is in the voluntary sector. In non-profit organizations, women make up an average of 51 percent of senior leadership.

“Some people have said, ‘oh well that’s exactly what you’d expect, of course women are choosing to be in the voluntary sector and social services, that’s what they want to do. They don’t want to be heads of corporations,’” said Bird. “That’s problematic to think ‘this is where women want to be.’ I think women want to be in all of these sectors.”

The report also found that at universities, women make up only 28.6 percent of senior leadership positions.

Similar representations of women in senior positions are found at McMaster. According to a study released in January 2014 by Charlotte Yates, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, only two of the eight Deans at McMaster are women, and over the last five years only 20 percent of Chairs and Directors of Academic units have been women faculty. Additionally, there has only been one female President and two female Provosts in McMaster’s 127-year history.

However, Yates’ report found that many of McMaster’s faculties are experiencing positive trends in the percentage of women in tenure-track positions, including the School of Business and the Faculty of Engineering. Women’s leadership is especially representative in the Faculty of Health Sciences, which has traditionally had a consistent record of both hiring and promoting women.

Bird is also working to create positive trends in women’s leadership at McMaster. As a part of the Academic Women’s Mentorship Ad Hoc Committee, she has helped to plan a series of lectures from women in leadership positions across multiple disciplines. The lecture series will highlight women’s success stories as well as barriers faced, and strategies to overcome those barriers. The series will begin Nov. 6 and is open to students from any faculty.

The report on women’s leadership has been made possible by contributions from McMaster’s Faculty of Social Science, the YWCA Hamilton, and Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. The Academic Women’s Mentorship lecture series is funded by a grant from President Patrick Deane’s Forward with Integrity initiative.

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