Mar 8, 2024

March 8 is International Women’s Day, and it is a day that recognizes and celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s theme is Inspire Inclusion, which emphasizes the importance of diversity, and the role of inclusion towards gender equality.  

International Women’s Day also highlights the progress made in society and reminds us of the work that still needs to be done.  

We are fortunate to have inspiring figures in our community here at snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ Langara College who continue to empower those around them. Meet three amazing women who come from different backgrounds but who are focused on the shared goal: inspire inclusion and diversity. Learn about their community impact at College. 

shahnaz-iwd.jpegAdvocating for her community  

Shahnaz Qayumi is an instructor in Langara’s Early Childhood Education program. She is also a women's and children's rights advocate and activist, and an Amnesty International human rights member.  

Shahnaz believes women's education is the key to solving world problems and this fact has yet to capture the world's attention. In 2012, she became a member of Partnership Afghanistan (Canada) and the Canadian Women for Women of Afghanistan (CW4WA), where she was responsible for the Training the Training project to teach a human development course to the master teachers in Kabul, Afghanistan. She also helped bring to life a program for Afghan women to listen to classes using a cell phone.  

“In the dominant male society, [women] are often discouraged to leave the house We adopted our approach to the environment and to cater to families significantly affected by the stress and violence of war.”  

When she is not teaching in the classroom, Shahnaz has made it her focus to support and urge Canadians to count in refugees and Immigrant girls and women in Canadian society.  She believes that investing in refugee youth and women through education, training, and cash-for-work projects related to cultural heritage supports livelihoods and job creation will accelerate their development.  

“Empowered women and girls contribute to the health and productivity of their families, communities, and countries; creating a healthy society will benefit everyone.” 

As an Afghan Canadian, she has always remembered Afghan women's rights She cherishes understanding the positive impact of gender equality and the benefits to all humans. 

Being present in our communities 


Dr. Joy Walcott-Francis is the director of equity, diversity and inclusion. Her PhD dissertation focused on the relationships between health research and marginalized/underserved populations and comes out of a desire to understand the “phenomenon [behind] the inherent gender biases” in cardiovascular health research.  

She’s actively involved in volunteer opportunities in the Black and African diaspora communities in the Lower Mainland.  

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, she believes that it is important to support and uplift the voices of women within our communities, including investing in women’s health and well-being. These factors are crucial to the development of communities. She supports her community by 'showing up' and doing – being an active part of community development, from mentoring to advocating. 

“I am a huge believer in education. It has played a crucial role in providing me with opportunities that I otherwise may not have had. It has also been a source of empowerment but more than anything, it has put me in a position where I can truly be a source of encouragement and inspiration to Black women and girls,” said Walcott-Francis.  

She believes that as an educational institution, we play a huge role in creating and fostering a more gender inclusive society. “Education is crucial in driving change that helps dispels stereotypes, challenge gender bias, reshape narratives, and lead the way in making changes in our policies, practices and programs that promote and foster gender inclusion.”  

ayla-iwd.jpgFostering inclusivity through leadership 

Ayla Maxfield is a student and the president of the Langara Kinesiology Association. As president of the Kinesiology Association, Ayla aims to create an inclusive environment and hopes to provide learning opportunities and lasting memories for as many students as possible. 

She states that education has been a monumental aspect of her life, and she is grateful to have the opportunity and the privilege to attend post-secondary and work towards her goals. 

“I encourage people to show gratitude for the amazing feminists who fought and died for women to have equal rights and opportunities; they are the very reason I’m able to attend school. It’s for this reason that I encourage my peers to practice confidence, raise their voice, and seek the opportunities that may scare them.”  

When asked about who she looks up to, she cites all the strong female figures in her life including her mother, grandmother, other mothers and some of her instructors here at the College.  

“Seeing women who are both driven in their careers and in their home, lives are motivational to me. I also have huge respect for women who defy conventions, choosing a lifestyle that best suits them despite social pressures to act otherwise.”   

Looking towards the future, she sees society being more gender inclusive by representing women in the media and in workplaces. “It’s inspiring seeing the accomplishments of women, seeing inclusivity and diversity in all kinds of work.”