When Vildana Tinjic first arrived in Cedar Rapids, she was surprised to learn there was no local observance for International Women’s Day, which has been celebrated globally since 1911. So, she planned something for herself and her co-workers at Linn County Public Health.
Beginning last year, however, the local landscape changed. The Women’s Equality Coalition of Linn County, known for its long-standing, annual celebrations of the day women received the right to vote, began hosting an event to recognize International Women’s Day. This year Tinjic will speak at the community event, describing the differences she has observed in the status of women and girls in her home country and the United States.
Tinjic, an environmental public health specialist, is a Bosnia-Herzegovina (former Yugoslavia) war survivor who immigrated, along with her siamese cat, Melika, to the United States in 2006. She began working at Linn County Public Health in 2013. Although she did not live in a refugee camp, as a first lieutenant nurse in the Army Medical Corps, she worked with many.
“I am lucky enough to be alive and have an opportunity to be in the United States,” she said. “My life is a lifelong learning opportunity because everywhere I go I meet people from different cultures, religions, nationalities, genders, ethnicities and countries and learn from them.”
But the Linn County observance is just one of many. Women around the globe will be coming together to build a gender-balanced world and celebrate International Women’s Day.
Internationally, women will discuss the theme of this year’s event, which is to build a gender-balanced world … or, in hashtag form, #IWD2019 will organize to create a #BalanceforBetter. Emphasis is on creating gender-balanced governments, boardrooms, media coverage, wealth and workforces. The theme is intended to run throughout the year, ‘to provide a unified direction to guide and galvanize continuous collective action.”
These are worthwhile discussions in Eastern Iowa. So, I hope you will take time in the next few days to start a conversation, post an image, or join in one of the planned community celebrations.
In Linn County, women will gather at a luncheon at Hills Bank in Marion on March 8, hosted by the Women’s Equality Coalition. Tickets are $15 for the event, which features opening remarks by Mayor Nick AbouAssaly and a keynote address by Tinjic. Proceeds benefit the organization’s scholarship fund.
In Johnson County, three organizations advancing gender balance – the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, 100 Grannies for a Livable World and Iowa Legal Aid – will be honored as part of Iowa City’s annual Night of 1,000 Dinners on March 13. Tickets are $25 ($10 for students) for this event, hosted by the Johnson County United Nations Association and several additional co-sponsors. It features an international buffet dinner.
As Tinjic notes, “Life is a journey” and we don’t know from one day to the next what we may face. But, with companionship and common goals, we can serve each other – and we can work for what’s good.
This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on March 5, 2019.