Marked annually on March 8, International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

It’s also a time to reflect on progress made, call for change where required, and celebrate the acts of courage and determination by women who play an extraordinary role in their communities.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge. A challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change.

To celebrate, we connected with three employees and change makers at the College – women receiving accolades for their work and trailblazing a more inclusive environment for all. Learn how they’re influencing the world around them:

Carla Kematch, Manager of Truth and Reconciliation and Community Engagement

Carla Kematch

Carla Kematch is raising awareness and understanding on the history of Canada and Indigenous peoples.

Her role sees her leading the Indigenous events team, creating staff training opportunities like the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation Education, being a bridge between RRC and TRC committees like the Manitoba Indigenous Education Blueprint Committee, and much more in between. Recently, she has brought in Indigenous speakers Niigaan Sinclair and Carole Anne Hilton to support faculty in Indigenizing their curriculum. You can also see her interviewing inspiring Indigenous alumni in the Stay the Course speaker series.

Carla believes this work is so important because the more people who understand the history and what the effects have been, the better everyone will be. She reflects on how this is connected to International Women’s Day (IWD) because it’s all about equity.

“As an Indigenous woman, I have yet to experience equity,” says Kematch. “I think there is still quite a bit of work to be done, and we just need to keep doing it. I just live day by day and do what I can for that day.”

By coincidence, IWD has had a significant impact on Carla. On many of her international travels throughout her life, she’s experienced IWD in different countries and met women from all walks of life. In the hotel lobbies, all the staff would be yelling “Happy International Women’s Day.”

“The people in those countries celebrated it and they were so honoured to yell it out, share it and to just say have a good day because it’s your day.”

She learned how important it is to acknowledge IWD as well as the gender biases, discrimination, and inequities that occur.

“When I was 25 backpacking in Europe, I met so many other young people, and young women that came from fairly wealthy families, but because they were women, they were not given the opportunity for a post-secondary education. Their fathers felt that the women’s place should be in a home. I was considering post-secondary, but when I came back from that trip, I made a commitment to myself that I would get a post-secondary education in honour of those young women who did not have that option. These women were so smart and so vibrant, and I thought even though I’m Indigenous, I have the opportunity. That’s why I chose to go to university.”

“In Canada as a woman, you have opportunities and at some point in your life you have to acknowledge it, take it and do something with it for the better of other people. I come from a very strong matriarch family, and I just have to give thanks to all of them for paving the way and for making us strong as our generation, and we will make the next generation stronger.”

Vera Godavari, Mentorship Program Coordinator

Vera Godavari

Vera Godavari has held a variety of roles in her time at Red River College – from marketing officer to mentorship program coordinator, she’s been fortunate to have multiple career paths at RRC.

And, no matter what role she’s in, Godavari has found that she gravitates toward working with students – whether she’s advising prospective students on education paths or encouraging current students to connect to student life, it’s all about enriching the student experience.

“As an introvert, I never thought I’d be out there talking to groups or advising students,” Godavari said. “It’s exciting to see someone’s eyes light up when you help them uncover a path through RRC that helps them achieve their goals. I’m so grateful to be part of their journey.”

Godavari believes that engaging in campus life can provide endless opportunities for students to learn new skills and ignite new passions. Looking back on her own time as a student, Godavari said that some of the most impactful learning experiences she had were a result of participating in student life and connecting to different campus communities.

“Wherever I can, I encourage students to join student council, social clubs, sports teams, or volunteer…just put up your hand and take a chance,” said Godavari. “Often, students don’t realize the importance of these activities and how they are a great way to try on new roles and practice skills before they graduate.”

The other way Godavari helps students get the most out of their education at RRC is by incorporating service learning – meaningful community service – with classroom instruction.

“Service learning is a little-known gem at RRC,” Godavari said. “For students who participate, they report how impactful the learning has been on them personally and professionally.”

Godavari’s current role has expanded into supporting change management on a number of projects. She leans on everything she has learned in her previous positions as she embraces becoming a change management practitioner.

“All these experiences have helped me develop the skills needed to become a change practitioner,” said Godavari.

And there’s no bigger change (or challenge) we’re all facing right now than COVID-19 – indeed, the pandemic has impacted how everyone works.

“It’s taken more effort to create opportunities to connect with students, and for students to connect with other students,” said Godavari. “We all must be more intentional and reach out to someone. Instead of watching videos alone, ask someone to join you – we have the technology to connect, so connect!”

Connection is the crux of Godavari’s work – from connecting students with one another, to connecting students with different opportunities, community building is key. Especially when it comes to creating opportunities for women and girls.

“To me, International Women’s Day means celebrating women and girls across the world and throughout history. It’s about recognizing the work that has been done and refocusing on the work ahead,” Godavari said.

“Together, we can make these changes happen. Hard things are hard, but the challenging work is worth it.”

Kim Mitchell, Research, Scholarship, and Quality Assurance Coordinator, Nursing Department

Kim Mitchell

Three years, more than 4,000 article reviews, and 7,000 words later, Kim and her colleagues recently celebrated their research paper being published in the journal Nurse Education in Practice.

This team of nursing instructors, research assistants, and a nursing student (now graduate) set out to explore retention strategies and attrition rates among nursing students. Together, they discovered retention in nursing programs requires a combination of social and academic integration strategies.

Among many findings, their research revealed that integrating students into the nursing profession should begin early on in a program. As well, literacy and mathematics were also discovered to be key determinants of student success. Peer mentorship, study skills, and tutoring were all identified as strategies to improve retention.

As a result of this team’s tireless efforts, together these findings can influence nursing education program policies for the future to ensure students can stay in school and be successful in their course work. 

The research also showed that many students were unprepared for and surprised by the high academic demands that come with being a nursing student. 

“Stereotypes can also affect our ability to attract and retain students for nursing programs,” says Mitchell. “Common stereotypes we hear include how success in nursing only requires traditional feminine characteristics, such as being passive, sweet, or comforting. International Women’s Day brings recognition to women and their accomplishments, and in turn, can help dispel these common stereotypes we face in the nursing profession.” 

As with any significant accomplishment, Kim and her colleagues rose to many challenges throughout the journey to publish their paper. Reviewing and conducting a slew of research, coordinating schedules, and managing workloads were just a few of the hurdles this group overcame to be successful. As a result of their commitment and perseverance, they’re optimistic about the impacts their findings can have on students.

“This project taught us how important it is to involve students in our research endeavors. We want students to be inspired by and involved in projects like this so they can keep asking the hard questions and shape the future of the nursing profession.”

Explore International Women’s Day Resources

Questions or comments? Please reach out to diversity@rrc.ca.