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(Audrey Carleton / The McGill Tribune)

TEDxMontrealWomen built bridges and broke barriers with this year’s feminist speakers

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On Nov. 5, Théâtre Saint-Denis hosted the fourth annual TEDxMontrealWomen conference, to bring together feminist minds. Since 2013, the independent, volunteer-led conference has presented innovative solutions for emerging social, political, and scientific problems to Montrealers. Predominantly organized by women, the event provides a platform for the work of emerging feminist thinkers. This year’s conference featured 18 speakers, including doctors, musicians, and activists. Presentations ranged from musical inspiration to indigenous rights, with the theme of ‘bridges’ linking them all together.

Each speaker’s unique interpretation of ‘bridges’ was shaped by their work and individual experiences. The focus primarily stayed on physical and metaphorical links currently shaping society at global and local levels. The program noted that building bridges is important because they can provide connections across people of different races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

Saima Shah, a clinical hypnotherapist and expert on the workings of the subconscious mind, spoke about challenging one’s limits. She prompted the audience to understand their subconscious by addressing their fears and anxieties.

“[I was attracted to participating in the conference] because of the theme, ‘bridges,’” Shah said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “Bridges to the conscious mind [and] the subconscious mind [….] Connecting to ourselves helps us to connect to the rest of the world as well. I was very intrigued by the theme, and I thought it was perfect.”

Rachel Kiddell-Monroe, a human rights activist, presented on civil society’s role in determining a nation’s prosperity and conflict levels. For her, the TEDxMontrealWomen conference highlights the unique perspective women bring to global conversations. She was drawn to the event for this reason.

“Women have a very particular message to give, and a very particular approach to trying to reach out to people,” Kiddell-Monroe said in an interview with the Tribune. “I think that the attitude that we have as women and the talent, and the voice that we can bring into this is going to be very important, so it’s really great that this is a forum for that voice to be heard.”

Kiddell-Monroe explained that by featuring femme speakers, the conference and its organizers are able to inspire those passionate about helping others to become activists. In her talk, she shared her experience working with marginalized groups in Indonesia and Rwanda, and encouraged listeners to be more inclusive toward others.

“[Empathy] really has an impact on people’s lives,” Kiddell-Monroe told the Tribune. “The ripples of those acts can really affect policy and how people are thinking, and it creates a shift in society. I want to use my first-hand experience and try to get that message out to make people feel that there is more than they [can] do.”

Other speakers, such as Carol Devine, an environmental activist and McGill alumna, addressed the need to understand the ties between human activity and its direct consequences on the environment. Devine spoke about her research in Antarctica, which influenced her to consider the environmental impact of plastic pollution on endangered ecosystems.

“I’m talking about marine debris,” Devine said in an interview with the Tribune. “[I became interested in [this area of study] when I led this clean-up expedition in Antarctica, and there was a lot of land pollution, and that was 20 years ago. Our understanding about how our world interweave is growing and growing, and [it’s becoming increasingly clear] we need to get a grip on our fossil fuel consumption.”

Even though presenters interpreted the theme in a variety of ways, the takeaway of the conference was that ‘bridges’ are powerful tools for understanding the world around us and tackling the problems faced by younger generations.

“[With] fences people suffer more than ever, so we need bridges, physical bridges and metaphorical bridges between peoples,” Devine said. “We are more similar than we think and what’s different is not going to kill us.”

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