Kelowna's sex trade topic of International Women's Day panel talk

An expert panel discussion about the sex trade in Kelowna and the rest of British Columbia is among the highlights during a week of public events March 3 to 7 leading up to International Women’s Day March 8.

"This is an opportunity to learn more about how the sex trade affects women in our community and our province," says Ilya Parkins, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at UBC Okanagan. "A public discussion like this allows us to consider the intersecting issues that affect our community, right here in Kelowna – issues such as how does sex work reflect the realities of both poverty and gender inequality?"

Co-sponsored by the Women’s Studies program in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, Okanagan College, and Community Against Sexual Exploitation of Youth (CASEY), the panel will feature representatives of Prostitutes Empowerment Education and Resources Society, Elizabeth Fry Society, Benita Bunjun of Vancouver Status of Women, and author Maggie de Vries.

Women and the Sex Trade in Kelowna and British Columbia will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 5, in the atrium of the Rotary Centre for the Arts, 421 Caswton Ave. in downtown Kelowna. Admission is free.

The many events planned for the UBC Okanagan campus during the week include:

  • Information booths from a wide range of local organizations for women, in the Student Service Centre foyer from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, March 3 and 4. Representatives will be on hand from the Kelowna Women’s Resource Centre, Kelowna Transition House, Birthing Options for Women, and Elizabeth Fry Society, among others.
  • A presentation by Mary Shearman of Simon Fraser University, in the Arts Building Atrium at 2:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 4. The talk is entitled A Teaser of Western Canadian Feminist Performance: The Evolution of Burlesque. This will be followed by a reception featuring songs by jazz performer Olga Osipova.
  • A celebration of Project GROW (Ghana Rural Opportunities for Women) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Student Services Centre on March 5. During February and early March, a group of UBC Okanagan nursing students are visiting northern Ghana, Africa. Donations raised in the Okanagan by Project GROW volunteers to help women and children in two northern Ghanaian villages will be delivered by the nursing students. Their visit will be recorded, and photos and video of the presentation will be shown during this celebration at UBC Okanagan.
  • A public talk, entitled Processes of Exclusion: The Deepening of the Feminization and Racialization of Poverty, by Benita Bunjun of Vancouver Status of Women, at 12 noon on Thursday, March 6, in the UBC Okanagan Arts Building Atrium.
  • Films on Friday featuring a continuous loop of films in the Student Service Centre foyer from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, March 7. For a deeper examination of issues, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. a trio of films about women and the sex trade -- Finding DawnSex Slaves, and Remote Sensing -- will also be screened in Library room LIB 305.
  • Entertainment in The Well (lower level of the Student Service Centre) begins at 8 p.m. with Vancouver-based band Emaline Delapaix and the Delistocracy, plus readings by student creative writers from UBC Okanagan.

In 1908, a century ago, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. International Women's Day was first observed three years later in 1911, and has become a global day of events honouring women's advancement.

"The week offers us all the opportunity for both a celebration of women’s achievements, and reflection on the challenges that remain," says Parkins.

A complete schedule of International Women’s Day events is on the UBC Okanagan website at

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