Today, March 8, 2021, marks the 110th anniversary of International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate all the wonderful accomplishments women have made within politics, health care, science, education, the creative arts, and more. Had it not been for the 15,000 women who marched on the streets of New York City in 1908 advocating for equal rights, this monumental day and the progression made for women’s rights would not exist. A year after this historical day, socialist Clara Zetkin coined the idea of IWD (International Women’s Day) as a way to bring attention, and change the oppression women were facing around the world. She made this proposal at a conference that consisted of 100 women from 17 different countries who all unanimously agreed, and International Women’s Day was first celebrated in 1910 across Europe.
There is a different theme for IWD every year. For 2021, it’s #ChooseTo Challenge which means being self-aware and responsible for all our actions. The purpose of this theme is to be prepared to challenge certain inequalities that are apparent in our society, and eliminate gender biases and norms. Countries around the world have gone through many changes this year given the circumstances of the pandemic. However, a tremendous amount of accomplishments and progressions have still been made by women in 2020 and and 2021, regardless of the restrictions virtual life has come with.
To start off, 2021 began the year with our very first Black, Asian, and woman vice president Kamala Harris. This was a huge victory, and life changing for the future of women in politics and other leadership roles. Some more milestones include the provision of menstrual products being free for all in Scotland! This lifts a huge obstacle faced by many people who menstruate. It helps move closer towards the abolishment of period poverty. Everyone should be able to manage their menstrual cycle in a safe manner, even if they can’t afford the products, which is why this movement is so important.
On top of that, two women Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna both won a Nobel prize in chemistry, which challenges the gender norms of male dominated fields.
Excitingly, Forbes noted that an increasingly high amount of women have been applying for Business programs at the university level in 2020. They also explained how workplaces have become more flexible, due to the uncertainty and change Covid-19 has placed on work schedules and environments. This new way of life is helpful for the working mother, and allows them to raise a child without giving up a career. For those living in “traditional” households where the man works and the woman stays home, these roles may be confronted if the husband switches to online work. Tasks are being balanced out and now we’re seeing couples split up chores rather than having one person do them all.
Regardless of all the wonderful accomplishments made, we need to address the inequalities that women are still facing in the twenty-first century. This day is about choosing to challenge, and by being aware of these injustices, women can better advocate for themselves and others. Below, we’ve listed a few sectors where work still needs to be done, specifically within Canada. Findings are from Canadian Women’s Foundation and Endometriosis Foundation of America.
- Indigenous women are killed six times the rate of non-Indigenous women.
- 67% of Canadians know a woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse.
- A 2017 Statistics Canada report found that Canadian women aged 15 and older made 87 cents for every dollar earned by a man. This is a drastic difference which translates to the equivalent of women working 47 days without pay.
- For women of colour the wage gap is even more drastic. Women of colour make just 64 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and for Indigenous women, it’s 46 cents.
- Over 6,000 women and children sleep in shelters due to the unsafe environment they face at home.
- Within the healthcare industry, there are major disparities that Black women face. They experience 3-4 times higher pregnancy complications in comparison to White women.
- 1.5 million Canadian women live on low income. The jobs that are predominantly female dominated make significantly less pay than male dominated fields. For example, the trades earn a higher wage than clerical jobs which is typically done by women.
The way we celebrate IWD will be different this year, but there are still many ways you can commemorate the day regardless of the pandemic. You can do this by supporting women led businesses, and this doesn’t mean having to buy anything! Following them on social media, or promoting their brand on whichever platform you use is a great way to do this. You can also donate to charity organizations dedicated towards the advocacy of diverse women and situations. Other ways of celebrating include watching a film or reading a novel written or directed by a woman. You can also attend a panel discussion that goes into depth on issues such as education and workplace inequalities. If you want to dress up, wear some purple attire as this signifies justice and dignity. We also encourage you to recognize how awesome you and the women around you are. Support each other, spread love from this day forward!
Written by: Taryn Herlich
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