OP/ED: Celebrating International Women's Day brings up the need to keep working
The new millennium has witnessed a significant change in society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Younger generations feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the challenges still faced across the world. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men. (International Women’s Day Factsheet) While the Boundary Women’s Coalition deliberately chooses to focus on the positives for women in the Boundary area, the facts are also clear that they continue to have to provide services and support for women in the region faced with inequality, discrimination and violence. So the question is: we have come a long ways, but when will we be done? We, as a society, continue to see women struggling in the face of poverty, unequal access to education and training to help change their situations, exposed to violence and control through authorities. There remains a need for stronger legislation and protection of women, in Canada and in the world. Still today, the polygamy and ‘ownership’ of young girls in communities in B.C. continues without prosecution and the tragedies of missing women in the north are a constant reminder. International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present, and future. The first International Women’s Day events were run in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland in 1911 and attended by over one million people. 100 years later, International Women’s Day (IWD) has become a global mainstream phenomena celebrated across many countries and is an official holiday in approximately 25 countries including Afghanistan, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia. Is there reason to celebrate? Most definitely. Even in my lifetime changing attitudes have allowed me the space and confidence to run my own business, and be clear about my opinions in public thanks to leaders like Nellie McClung, something restricted in the past . Is there room for more? Undoubtedly. When Canada has dropped from #7 in the world in minimizing the gender gap (in employment, education, etc.) in 2005 to #20 in 2010, it is clear that there needs to be continued emphasis on change. But as it was pointed out by Fatima Faria, co-chair of the Coalition, none of the change we want to see is possible without the men by our sides. Their support in fact may be the only key to change, for if they cannot appreciate the changes needed, it’s unlikely it will happen. Women cannot change it all alone.
Congratulations to the women of the Boundary who shine in their communities!