On Monday, March 8th, International Women’s Day, Mayor Watson, with Councillor Theresa Kavanagh, Council Liaison for Women and Gender Equity, and Councillor Catherine Kitts, hosted a virtual celebration where we heard from two very inspiring women: Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, and local poet Zarah Maria Willow. If you didn’t have a chance to join us, we hope you can take some time to watch the recording of our engaging discussion.
Zarah Maria Millow read her poem included here at this year’s International Women’s Day event for the City of Ottawa.
Letter to Little Girls Everywhere
by Zarah Maria Willow
When I was younger, I would wonder, at what point do little girls become things no longer worth protecting? I would watch women put on their armour and manicured smiles and meet the world with love. Wondering why, when they had been left on their own to survive?
Little did I know that women are like seeds, we plant ourselves in the earth; with patience and care, we thrive. We grow roots and bloom fearlessly under the moon. We become fragrant at the break of dawn. We persist, we adapt, we carry on.
Today I recite this poem to make certain that you know, wherever you are, if the sun has ever touched your skin, little girl, you are loved.
Neither I, nor anyone else, can define for you what it means to be a woman. Though I will share with you some of the lessons I have learned.
Womanhood is a privilege, heavily weighted. It is to be both brave and loving. To have thick skin, soft enough to hold our loved ones close when they believe that they are alone. A woman’s embrace is a place to call home.
Empathy is a gift worth giving. Moments will arise that feel like stones stuck in the center of our chests. Stay calm, close your eyes, remember that breaths are meant to be taken deeply. Sometimes a deep breath is all we need to remember that life isn’t always that easy, but that we are never alone.
This life is made up of all kinds of different feelings but how you feel about yourself is the most important one of them all. People will attempt to tell you stories about who you are or shouldn’t be. Silence those voices swiftly. Learn to listen only to the beating of your own heart: echoes of the women who came before you; marching on their way to break down doors and hold them wide open for you. So you may have the room to be.
So be, authentically you. Be vulnerable. Be gentle in the face of a world unaccustomed to kindness without expectation. Let go of everyone else’s expectations of you. Smile when you want to. Cry when you need to. Dream as much as you dare to. For it is because of the dreamers that you were born to be free.
Don’t ever be afraid to play. Amplify the voice in your heart that yells dance and sing and share and laugh and create and connect. Because joy has the power to heal and we are in desperate need of healing.
Never believe that anything in this life is outside of your reach. Stretch as far and freely as you need. Spread your wings and soar. Be sure of your ability to do what has never been done before. Imagine, expand, feed your desire to know. Realize that every challenge is a question: will you choose to grow?
If anyone ever tries to tell you what your role is, tell them we are doctors, activists, and entrepreneurs. We are caregivers, astronauts and chefs. We are presidents, peacemakers and creators. We are mothers, daughters and friends. We are lovers of the greatest kind because we have learned to embrace self-love even when loving ourselves isn’t always allowed.
And if you don’t yet know who you are or how to be, I invite you, to face your greatest fears, you just might find the best parts of yourself there. And remember as the sun graces your skin, little girls, everywhere, you are loved.