International Women’s Day @ the DND

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, the Department of National Defense in Ottawa hosted two screenings of Sisters in Arms.  I was honored to be invited to share the film with this audience.  At the same time, I was quite nervous about how it would be received, by the Canadian Forces women, in particular.

I was up early, filled with the excitement (and trepidation) for the day.  I stepped into the frigid winter morning and had a short walk over to the looming DND building.  As I walked in the door I was greeted by my smiling and enthusiastic hosts and the day was off to a good start that never stopped.

Over 200 women and men came out to see Sisters in Arms.  The screenings were followed by lively Q & A discussions with a panel including myself, Retired Lt Col Shirley Robinson – co founder of the Association for Women’s Equity in the Canadian Forces who played a key roll in getting all military trades open to women, and Lt Col Anne Reiffenstein – the first to woman to graduate as an artillery officer in the Canadian Military.  The audience was so engaged and their questions and responses so enthusiastic, I sensed that the film struck a cord.

We talked about the changes since the momentous decision by the Human Rights Tribunal in 1989 to open all trades to women;  mentorship and gender integration;  the current challenges facing women soldiers; and even the taboo subject of sexual harassment;  all from very personal perspectives.   It seemed anything was open to discussion. And, for a while, we were in that comforting and inspired place that women go when they connect.

I hope this film and the discussions it generates will support and encourage the people it profiles and continues to inspire dialogue both inside and outside of military circles.

Keep talking.

Special thanks to my hosts Cpt. Kristy Mathisen, Lt. Carol Desrosiers and the fabulous MC MWO Roberge for making this such a great event

Comments: 4 Comments

4 Responses to “International Women’s Day @ the DND”

  1. Alessandra Ramundo says:

    I’m a captain in the Brazilian Army. As I was searching the web for some material on gender in the military, I came across “Sisters in Arms”. After purchasing it for home viewing, I just received my package from Canada and immediately played it. The film touched me very deeply. As a soldier, as a mother, as a woman. I take my hat off to Kimberley, Tamar and Katie, for sharing so generously and openly such hard experience, and Beth Freeman, for doing such great work giving them voice and floor. You made me feel even prouder as a female soldier!

  2. Alessandra Ramundo says:

    I must add that we have studied the possibility of opening our Military Academy and Combat Arms to the female in Brazil. There’s a lot to be learned from the Canadian experience! I’m really glad I found this channel to exchange experiences and information on the issue.

  3. jose says:

    I am a Lieutenant Colonel in the Spanish Army. I am currently serving at the Brazilian Staff College in Rio de Janeiro. My English teacher showed me the DVD,s during our class and I felt deeply moved. The Spanish Army has plenty of experience now having female soldiers and officers in all branches. In fact in the Battalion I have just commanded in Afganistan I had two female officers and 33 female soldiers. All of them reliable and brave, even more than their own males commrades.
    Congratulations for the page, and thanks to my teacher who contributed so much to enlighten my narrow views about women.

  4. David Lau says:

    Hi Beth:

    I just ran across this post. I am so glad Ottawa gave recognition of your film. I hope they got the audio right, something I still bear in shame! i hope the event in Esquimalt has turned into a fond memory.