CGSHE commemorates International Women’s Day

March 8, 2023   |   Blog, News

Illustration by Milo Ira

For this year’s International Women’s Day, we wanted to recognize a handful of women who have acted as advocates in the gender and sexual health equity space. These are women whose stories you might not have heard before, but who helped to pave the way in each of their communities for the women who came after them.

Jean Goodwill was the first Indigenous woman to graduate from the nursing program at Saskatchewan University, and would later help to found the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada, acting as the organization’s President from 1983-1990. In 1990 she was elected as the president of the Canadian Society for Circumpolar Health. She had a long career in government advocating for Indigenous health, that included roles with Health and Welfare Canada and Aboriginal Affairs.

Jean received the Order of Canada in 1992, and a national excellence award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation in 1994. She dedicated her life and career to supporting Indigenous nurses in Canada and was a strong advocate for Indigenous health.

Learn more about Jean Goodwill


Dianna Boileau was a pioneering trans woman and advocate for trans rights navigating life in the small town of Fort Frances, Southern Ontario in the ‘70s. She was one of the first patients in Canada to undergo gender affirming surgery, and was the first to have her care approved and financed by the Ontario Health Insurance Program. She later wrote a book about her experience, Behold I am a woman, in collaboration with journalist Felicity Cochrane.

Borderland Pride, the LGBTQ2 Pride organization serving the Rainy River District in Northwestern Ontario, explored Dianna’s story in the podcast Behold Dianna. In Episode 12, members of the LGBTQ2S+ community with a connection to Fort Frances talk about her story and what it means to them today.

In the closing thoughts of this episode, one of the podcast panelists reflects, “I don’t think queer history gets the attention it deserves, and so I think just bringing Dianna’s story to light is so important… Dianna was freaking courageous.”

Listen to Episode 12 of Borderland Pride


Brenda Campbell was an Indigenous woman from the Heiltsuk nation, and the first President of the Native Sisterhood, “British Columbia’s first women-led Indigenous advocacy organization” [source].

Brenda was a cannery worker in Bella Bella; and spent many hours offering administrative support to the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia, “a new group formed in 1931 to advocate for Indigenous fishermen and labourers” [source].

In 1933, she and other Indigenous women in her community formed the Native Sisterhood. These women wanted an advocacy group where they could be voting members and also advocate for issues specifically relevant to women and children. Eventually, women were given the vote in the Native Brotherhood of BC, where Brenda Campbell would go on to serve as vice-President.

Learn more about Brenda Campbell


Happy International Women’s Day! Who are some pioneering women in the gender and sexual health space that you think should be highlighted? Let us know on our social media!