To mark International Women’s Day, we are profiling some of the individual members of our Network and the work that they do. Today: Mary Scott
by Olivia Adams, MA Candidate (NPSIA) and intern with The WPS Group.
Mary Scott has always been involved in gender issues and women’s rights. As a resident of Winnipeg, she worked at the Manitoba office for Human Resources Development Canada, seeing first hand the needs of the community. At HRDC, she managed the Manitoba Stay in School program, which focused on youth drop-out rates, especially indigenous youth; she developed a Women Returning to Work program, centered around the skills women needed to re-enter the workforce; and finally, she put on a program called Alice in Cyberland, which provided workshops for women about the internet and computers, an important initiative in 1980s Manitoba.
Still, it wasn’t until the year of her retirement that she became interested in the global women’s movement. In 1995, Mary attended the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing as an official delegate. At the conference, she began to see the importance of women’s activism and of women’s involvement in peace negotiations. She tells the story of the famous UN conference “peace tent,” where women came together from different perspectives to respectfully share dialogue on issues such as reproductive health. She came away from this conference with a deeper understanding of the global effects of gender inequality around the world, and of what women were doing to make a difference.
With this new perspective, Mary started a local chapter of UNIFEM in Winnipeg, which eventually became UN Women. When the national committee decided against having local chapters of UN Women, she and Senator Marilou McPhedran created the Institute for International Women’s Rights-Manitoba. Founded in 2013, the organization focuses on supporting women’s equality and women’s rights both locally and globally. It also holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. Their current project is supporting a delegation of 31 students and adults, including indigenous leadership, from Manitoba and Treaty 3 area to the meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women in early March, including a panel presentation: Youth Speak Out: Canada’s Social Protection Systems, which aims to share the stories of a diverse group of young women and their experiences within current protection systems. “It’s always so hard to change policy,” she says. “It’s difficult to make those changes but with Youth Voices, you start to see that maybe things can change. Things never change just because people think it should change, it changes because of the community and the actions of the community.”
Mary has been a member of the WPSN-C since its beginning in 2012. “The Network means a great deal, because I hear from the amazing group of women, many part of international organizations, that are committed to supporting and improving the lives of women who are caught up in violent situations of war and conflict, yet seeking peaceful resolution. I admire their work, and want to carry their message to the community I am part of, here in Manitoba and Treaty 1 territory. There are also many from the Diaspora of war torn countries that may have something to contribute to the discussion of how to build a peaceful world, one where women’s human rights are respected.”
If she could share one piece of advice for others working or wanting to work in the field of gender equality and women’s rights it’s to “Be persistent. Respect and care for others. It’s important to work together and support each other.”
“I do this not for myself but for other women and their families, because that’s where change has to happen.”