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Women in the Hall

Late that summer many years ago, my student job had ended and I was soon to return to university. Heart pulsing hard in my throat, I entered city hall and walked over to the Director’s office. His Executive Secretary greeted me with a questioning smile and ushered me into the municipal head man’s office. The Director kindly asked me to be seated. Cheeks flushed, voice tight, I explained why I was there.

All summer, I had watched as Mr. M., my boss and the person in charge of hiring for the municipality, directed men to certain positions and women to others; an illegal practise, according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which hung proudly on the door to Mr. M.’s office.

Students came to us to apply for summer jobs with the city, wanting to be attendants at outdoor sport installations, mow the grass in municipal parks, lifeguard at city pools and work as clerk-typists - as I had. “How are your typing skills?”, Mr. M. would ask a young woman entering the office. To a young man: “How strong are you?” and: “How big are you?”.

At one point, I suggested Mr. M. hire a student with a gender-neutral name for a summer position in the parks. At first, he said yes, it looked like an interesting candidate, based on the person’s qualifications. When he discovered the student was a woman: “No, she’s not the right person for the job.”

Over the summer, I took careful notes of Mr. M.’s actions, and even photocopied staff requisition forms on which he - or other city managers - had written “Woman” as the sex required for a particular position. All this I brought to the Director and laid out before him, with trepidation and determination for women’s equal rights.

The following summer, I rode a city bus by one of that municipality’s parks. As I saw two young women mowing the grass and planting flowers for the new warm season, tears sprang to my eyes: justice!

I realized then that even one person, documenting and naming injustice, can make a difference. That was the beginning of a commitment to women’s rights activism, which continues to this day and will do until my last breath on this earth.


Myrthe's picture

Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your story! Your story is such a wonderful example of how you don't always need masses of people to achieve something, but that sometimes it takes only one person to make a difference.

Jan K Askin's picture


Dear Katherine MO,

I am a retired elementarily school principal who has seen plenty examples of gender discrimination. I always was mindful that I was a role model to the girls at my schools, that women could hold positions of power.

However, Katherine, I never took the courage that you took to prepare and have the difficult conversation with your boss. To his credit, it seems, he listened.

What a powerful story!


Jan Askin

Fatima Waziri's picture

That was very bold and

That was very bold and courageous of you to seek for justice for others. Only if we can all speak up for the rights of other, only then will the world be a better place. Thank you for being so selfless.


KatherineMO's picture

Thank you for your comments!

Hello Myrthe, Jan and Fatima,

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my story and leave me such lovely comments. I am very touched!

It was scary to go meet with the city's head person (other than the mayor), but I felt compelled to do it - when I witness injustice, I have to do whatever I can to change the situation, especially when it comes to women's rights. And yes, luckily enough, he did take what I had to say very seriously, such that things changed within months and "Mr. M.", my immediate boss at the time was "let go" (I feel a bit guilty about that, but then I remember all those women who had no chance of getting a job with him in that position).

All that being said, I sure don't see myself as brave when I look at all the incredible women whose stories we read here on this site: women who have endured appalling violence, enduring poverty, war, and unimaginable loss. I feel that my story is a drop in the bucket compared with those women.

So I take this opportunity to say: Solidarity with women around the world! If we all work together, beyond any differences, if we denounce injustice, like you said Fatima - the world will be a better place for our children!

Thanks and peace to you,


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