“The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfil the noble and benign offices of wife and mother.” This was stated by a Canadian Supreme Court judge in the early 1900s. Fast forward to present day; Women’s Rights movements and organizations across the country continue to blaze the trail to prove this statement to be false.

We caught up with speakers Delaney O'Neill and Nicole Dubé from Portage’s International Women’s Day Event along with host, Sharilyn Knox, to get their perspective on the event that took place earlier this month, and how they have pushed forward in blazing their own trails to become the strong women they are today.

How was the evening overall?

Delaney: The 2024 International Women’s Day event was an inspiring evening of connection and conversation. Nicole did a fantastic job in her keynote address and a lot of what she had to say certainly resonated with what I shared about my experiences, so it made for a fun evening of self-reflection and depth. Being relatively new to the city, I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet some incredible women from our community. I love Portage la Prairie. We are relatively new to the prairies as my husband Corey, and I moved here a year and a half ago from Halifax for his work as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. We both grew up in small towns, so after living in some bigger cities it is nice to see familiar faces and really get the chance to connect with the smaller community. For a young mother, the city has some great resources and facilities that really help to keep us busy. A lot of our days are spent taking advantage of the programs at the Family Resource Center, Stride Place and the Rec Plex.

file photoSharilyn Knox & Delaney O'Neill 

Nicole: The community of Portage the Prairie is just the most welcoming, kindest community ever. And that just instantly warmed my heart. To just see genuinely welcoming people were to have me there. So that was great. And Mayor Sharilyn Knox; She is a force! That woman can bring people together. I was just blown away by her ability to organize the night; SO good!

Sharilyn: Inspiring and empowering. Delaney O’Neill and Nicole Dube delivered captivating speeches that left our attendees motivated and energized. The connection felt in the room was uplifting; women supporting and uplifting each other, the need for opportunities and representation in all areas of life, and the power of embracing one's own strength and voice.

What would you say is the biggest barrier holding women back today?

Delaney: I think the biggest barrier holding me back is myself, and I think that experience may be the same for a lot of women. Taking the first step in doing something different is often the most difficult, and before you can start to explore your real potential, negative self-talk creeps in and you have somehow talked yourself out of being able to accomplish whatever you want to do before you get started. There are certainly some additional challenges and hurdles that women face out in the world, but the courage to step outside traditional roles, and for me, my comfort level at times was my biggest barrier. The fear of failure is rooted deep in our subconscious and can be difficult to overcome.

Nicole: My value was in doing more. Being the hardest worker and almost needing to be perfect to prove myself worthy of being in the roles that I worked hard to be in. We (as humans) carry this idea, we have to do things perfectly. And if we can't do it perfectly, we might hold ourselves back. Not because we don't have tremendous insight or value. And not because we haven’t triple checked our facts, but because we fear not being given grace if we are wrong. And women might face that in the workplace more than men.

Sharilyn: The biggest barrier holding women back today is societal expectations. Societal expectations are like rules or beliefs that people have about how women should behave or what they should do. Societal expectations also create pressure for women to look a certain way or act a certain way, which can affect their self-esteem and confidence. prevent women from reaching their full potential and limit their freedom to make their own choices.

What are some things you do, or “best practices” you use to feel confident? Delaney: As difficult as it is at times with social media, I make a habit of not comparing myself to others. We are so “connected” these days but that connection is relatively superficial and highly filtered, so I am careful to remind myself that what I see online is far from a full picture. I make sure to surround myself with positive, like-minded, supportive people and find real connection with family and friends and that helps keep me on the right path. I also make sure to fit in some self-care whenever I can. It can be challenging with a toddler and an infant, but whether it's an early spin class at the Studio on Sask, or an at home skin care treatment and journaling after the littles get to bed, getting some time for myself is important.

Nicole: The power and the momentum you can build into your life through a good routine. no one in life gets to go straight to the Mountain Top. Our stories are riddled with valleys. And I'm letting myself be in the slow lane for the first time as I figure this out because you can't fast track your growth. At least, I don't feel I can in this particular chapter of my story. I'm really trying to be a human being rather than a human doing. I'm currently really reinventing myself, so you know that doesn't happen by doing nothing. I know I have to take action on dreams and new goals of mine. I'm trying to create a very intentional life with a new business and marrying that with my skills and seeing how I can apply journalism skills

and my communication background and help other people communicate. And so my get up and go really is there. There's no one else that's going to do it for me. I have to do it myself.

Sharilyn: To feel confident, it's important to take care of yourself, embrace who you are, and surround yourself with positive vibes. I try set realistic goals, I celebrate my wins, and I lean on my support network when I need a boost. I also give myself grace when I make mistakes. Giving grace is a crucial aspect of building confidence. It's important to remember that nobody is perfect, and it's okay to make mistakes or face challenges along the way. Instead of being too hard on yourself, treat yourself with kindness and understanding, just as you would with a close friend. Remember, growth and learning come from embracing your imperfections and giving yourself the space to learn and improve.

What would you say to your 13-year-old self?

Delaney: It might sound a little cliché but I would tell her to “be herself”. I think the world continues to be a more and more difficult place to raise children and self-confidence is so important for kids, especially little girls, through those important teen years. The pressure to “fit in” can be very strong during that formative time and is often the reason that some teens start to behave out of character. These last few years I have also learned to not sweat the small stuff, and have chosen to focus on health and family, but I think that might be a hard concept for any teen girl to accept at 13!

Nicole: You are enough just as you are. I would hug her, thank her and say thank you for being brave, strong, and dreaming dreams. Because little Nicole had courage to be brave and dream big dreams. Our young selves aren't tarnished by limiting beliefs yet. Somewhere along the lines I think we forget that it was our innocent, young, dreaming inner child that thought the possibilities for us. And you just hope that you get to execute on some of it at some point in your life. And I owe the life I've led to this little girl who, somehow, was brave enough, even as an insecure teenager, to pursue that.

Sharilyn: Believe in yourself and your abilities. Embrace your uniqueness and never be afraid to speak up and pursue your dreams. Surround yourself with people who uplift and support you. Remember that your voice and opinions matter, and you have the power to make a difference in the world.

International Women’s Day only comes once a year, so moving forward into April remember to continue to lift each other up, tell your story, and keep blazing your own trail.

To see more photos and comments on the event see Central Plains Cancer Services on Facebook. Or follow the speaker Delaney. And speaker Nicole can be found here: