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BridgeveritcalFULLHub Staff

Port Elgin’s Karen Ann Bridge was named this year’s Woman of Distinction at the International Women’s Day event at Lakeshore Recreation March 8, hosted by the Women’s House Serving Bruce & Grey.

After years of working as a Dental Hygienist and fitness instructor, the single mother was accepted into and completed Western University's (UWO) Schulich Dental Clinician-Scientist (DCS) program, which she graduated from in 2015. Bridge was awarded the Dr. John C. McLister Service Award for her commitment, leadership and service to her fellow students, faculty, and staff at Western.

During her time in London she worked part-time, assisting with free dental clinics through Dental OutReach Community Services.

Bridge is now an Associate at Kincardine’s Lakeview Dental, supports and volunteers for various international and domestic charitable organizations and is hoping to provide dental services to women and children in need.

When asked about being honoured with the Woman of Distinction title, Bridge admitted that there are many women in the area that are deserving of the award and is humbled to be chosen.

“When I found out I...I cried,” Bridge said with reverence. “I am truly humbled. When I was in school I won recognition awards for the work I did in the school, you know school stuff, and I was really proud of that, but this has really hit home for me, I am really humbled by it and very touched.”

Keeping with the International Women's Day theme, Bridge addressed that although her Dentistry class at UWO was over 50 percent women who were all respected, she still believes there needs to be more awareness for women around the world.

“I do believe that women need to keep our place in the world because our world is such a small place now, and there are a lot of countries where they don't treat women equality so we need to have a strong voice,” Bridge said.

She added, “I don’t think we need to be loud, I don’t think we need to be aggressive, and I don’t think we need to be ‘look at me, look at what I've done’, I just think we need to continue to be equal in voting, equal in our voice in the country, equal in supporting other women and standing up for our friends, or family members and people that we see that are being treated properly.”

She also touched on equality for women in the workplace, and that businesses and companies need to have an equal voice for women, something that has been a widely publicized battle in North America and other parts of the world, and portrayed in media, as well as used in political campaigns. As of 2015, thanks to Justin Trudeau, women now make up 50 percent of Canada's Cabinet, which garnered much praise and media attention and portrayed as a “groundbreaking” decision.

Bridge said that as woman she knows that there is a fine line that women walk at work because of negative stereotypes that are demeaning to the driven attributes that women can have; that women need to use a “steady voice".

“I still think...that women are afraid to voice something (at work) because they're going to be looked or labeled as a bitch or being brass. I think there is a steady voice, but not loud or screaming, and there's a fine line there.”

Another woman who used her voice at the March 8 event was Grade 7 student Julia Ferrier. At just 12 years old, Ferrier was invited to open the Women’s Day event with a speech that she was barred from saying at her school because it contained the word “nudity”.

Her speech addressed how hard it is for women, no matter their age, to stand up to cyberbullies, who can objectify women and use their pictures as blackmail, bringing up the famous case of 16 year-old Amanda Todd of British Columbia who committed suicide in 2012. Todd was cyber-stalked with a topless photo that was taken via webcam, and the bullying continued after multiple attempts to move on, by changing schools and even moving. Every time Todd would try to start over, the photo was circulated around her new schools.

Ferrier also touched on how some of her peers and youth of today feel the pressure to procure relationships and foster self-confidence by providing nude or provocative images of themselves to others.

Following her speech the attendees feasted on food, and were later entertained by Yuk Yuk’s women comedians Judy Croon and Martha Chaves.



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