Education the main focus at Waterloo topless rally

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

On August 1, Nadia, Tameera and Alysha Mohamed hosted a topless rally in response to an earlier incident where the sisters were told to cover up while cycling on a hot day.

The incident gained massive media attention and the sisters filed a complaint a few days before the rally. They had not heard back. This inevitably led to the idea of educating the public of a woman’s right to be topless in Ontario.

“We’ve done this every summer since we were little so it’s something that our family does pretty frequently … We’ve decided we were going to do it both to educate people who want to access this right and to educate other people who may be upset about it, so that they know that it is something we are allowed to do,” said Tameera.

Nadia said another contributing factor was the incident in Guelph in which an eight-year-old was asked to cover up.

“We don’t think that these events are isolated. It seems that there’s a bigger theme. So it seems like a good opportunity to educate the public,” said Nadia.

Participants of the rally were allowed to decide whether they wanted to wear tops and they gathered outside of the Waterloo Public Library to make signs.

The group then moved to uptown and Waterloo Park, ending with keynotes from speakers such as Gwen Jacob, who won the right for women to be able to be topless in public, and Diane Brisebois from gotopless.org.

The event had a turnout of around 300 people, which the sisters did not anticipate. Nadia said she made 15 headbands for the event, but when they made the Facebook event and got attention, the support grew.

“It definitely was a lot more than we anticipated,” she said.

Staff sergeant and executive officer Mike Haffner said police reached out in order to ensure that it was going to be a peaceful rally. Both parties discussed the safety of not only the participants, but others in the area as well as those who may not share the same views.

“That’s one of the benefits of working with the organizers of a peaceful rally — education is the big thing. We wanted to be there and ensure that they have a safe day. However, also that they manage to obey the law,” said Haffner.

According to Tameera, the rally took place in a student-centered area, which worked efficiently as this niche of people tend to be more interested in learning and expanding their minds.

“It can be a lot harder to change your views when you’ve been living for how many years with a particular mindset and also because students, for the most part, tend to be younger and so have a lot more time to act on those thoughts and maybe get involved themselves.”

As for next steps, the sisters plan to take this experience as they move forward with their lives in the fall. Tameera will be going back to Nova Scotia for school, where it is still illegal for a woman to be topless in public and plans to help incorporate change. Nadia will be starting her master’s degree in social work at Wilfrid Laurier University and hopes to work with like-minded people and to run similar events in the future.

“I think that we did accomplish what we wanted to, which was to educate the public. Not everybody was happy about it, but now they do know that it is a woman’s right,” said Nadia.

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