Many women empower others through their variety of roles in our community. From history makers to the next generation, all embody strength, kindness, and dedication.  

Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we highlight them and their passions. 

This year’s theme is Embrace Equity. It challenges the idea of why equal opportunities aren’t enough. Society should be truly inclusive, challenge gender stereotypes and embrace diversity as people start from different backgrounds. 

Kennedy Hardinge has always been inspired to help women and girls in her community.

The owner of Kenny's K9 says, when growing up in MacGregor, she always assumed she would be a child and youth care councillor. She took part in Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Go Girls program, and teen mentoring at Portage Collegiate. She credits her mother, Delinda Guy, whom Kennedy describes as a "hustler" -- someone who always worked hard to provide for her friends, family, kids, and her community.

"That, I think, is a huge part of me just wanting to do better, be better and give as much back as I possibly can," says Hardinge. "I do feel that I get that from her, as well as both my grandmothers on my mom's side (Velma Rodgers) and my dad's side (Phillis Guy). They are just both wonderful humans and those three women are a huge inspiration to me in many different forms."

A young Kennedy Hardinge between her grandparents, Velma Rodgers and Phillis Guy. A young Kennedy Hardinge between her grandparents, Velma Rodgers and Phillis Guy. 

Kennedy wanted to shout out her team, saying staff has never been something she has to worry about. On this International Women's Day, she wanted to say thank you to Kalie Miles, Nicole Stadnyk, Pat Calder, Gaby Chappellaz, Emily Preun and Shayne Nichols, as all six make every day a good one.

"I truly have the most amazing women at Kenny's K9," says Hardinge. "I always knew when I started my business, that I wanted to work with girls and hire girls that were true, kind, genuine humans, and people that did things in the community. I do have a checklist of the certain criteria of people that I want working for me."

Many of the staff have been around since she launched her business nearly five years ago. Kennedy calls her team a true 'family', saying they work together perfectly as a team.

Kennedy continues to be inspired by great women in our communities and she hopes to do the same for the next generation, noting empowering young girls and women, and helping them achieve their dreams, remains one of her life goals.

Meanwhile, Portage Mayor Sharilyn Knox kicked off her International Women's day by participating in a conference call with Mayors worldwide.

"From Zambia, from Sweden, from Colombia. It was fascinating, and it's interesting to know that in our world, only 5 per cent of mayors are actually women," says Knox.

She says that we have seen success at the municipal political level in Manitoba.

"This year, we have 22 out of the 137 Heads of Council are women, but we're still a long way from gender (parity). I just believe we have to do more because, and I believe for young women, young girls, or whoever, they need to be able to see that they can do this."

File Photo.Mayor Sharilyn Knox

Mayor Knox highlighted that Portage has had a woman as Mayor before her as well, dating back to 1978 when Karen Devine held office.

Knox notes that reaching gender parity will have to be done little by little with baby steps every day, not just on International Women's Day.

File Photo.Rhonda Lodwick

Rhonda Lodwick leads a team of all females at 21 Fox Realty in Portage and says her crew is great to work with.

Lodwick adds that throughout her career, she has been joyed to see the field move to an equal playing field for men and women.

“Lots of women joining the business, succeeding out there, and it is just a great work environment altogether.”

International Women's Day is celebrated globally on March 8 as a focal point in the women's rights movement.