How do you break a bias when it is so deeply ingrained into our culture as a whole?

International Women’s Day challenges us this year to ‘break the bias,’ sometimes unconscious, that affects women whether in the workplace, home or society in general.

Many women are breaking through barriers and taking leadership positions in their communities, in the legislature, in workplaces and beyond – we can find inspiration almost anywhere we look with women paving the way forward for future generations.

The legislature has seen an increase of one female member overall from the last election, now six of 22 seats are filled by women, three of whom are also members of cabinet.

The appointment of Mary Simon, our first Inuk Governor General, to one of the highest offices in the country is certainly an inspiration, showing young women that passion and hard work can lead you places unexpected in past decades.

Of course, it’s easy to find inspiration in ceilings being shattered; anyone reaching new heights is sure to encourage others to try and do the same, but what about finding comfort in the ordinary?

Like in the case of Mary Fredlund, who recently stepped down after helming Rankin Inlet’s Ikurraq Food Bank Society for more than 25 years, and the countless other volunteers who give their time to their communities in so many meaningful ways.

Or in Iqaluit, where 30 per cent of emergency responders are women – a fact the municipality is celebrating and showcasing on International Women’s Day, March 8.

“It’s a good promotion, I think, especially for younger girls to see that it’s a job possibility for them,” says acting fire chief Lieut. Sharon Nowlan.

Nunavut News interviewed influencer and Inuktitut instructor Aliqa Illauq, who says she possesses just as much esteem for a person begging for money on the street as anyone else.

“Some of them are lucky just to get a nice hot meal a day, and they’re still able to smile and show compassion. That’s an inspiration. It amazes me,” she says. “At the end of the day, most of them will show more love than the corporate CEO and they’ll be more trustworthy. That’s one of my biggest inspirations: watching people rise above their hurt and just having the opportunity to listen to them.”

We’re in the midst of several concurrent crises, where violence against women, suicide and poverty intersect to create difficult circumstances for even the most resilient among us.

While there are resources created to try and ease the immense burdens being carried – online and telephone counselling, social programs such as income support, and $11 million in funding for new shelters for those fleeing violent situations – many of these intended sources of help are still difficult to access or plain impractical, depending on the situation.

Baker Lake, Gjoa Haven, Pangnirtung and Pond Inlet are in line to have new shelters created, along with the existing ones in Cambridge Bay, Iqaluit, Kugaaruk, Kugluktuk and Rankin Inlet.

Having to be flown from your home community to have a safe roof over your head is unacceptable, especially as a survivor of violence. Nine communities is a better position to be in than five, or zero, but the real issue remains the violence itself, and the healing required for men and women to move forward together.

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