International Women’s Day has been observed around the world since 1911. The movement started with a desire for women to be able to participate equally in society with men. Celebrated every year on March 8, International Women’s Day provides us all with the opportunity to take stock of our country’s progress towards gender equality, and to honour the many ways women contribute and have contributed to our global society.
But, wait a minute. Doesn’t gender equality already exist here in Canada? While our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does guarantee gender equality, women are still facing significant challenges. Women continue to be under-represented in politics and still earn less than men in the workforce. They are still responsible for the majority of family responsibilities, and they experience gender based violence at higher rates than men. Despite the many great improvements that have been achieved for women since the first International Women’s Day in 1911, there is still a significant amount of work to be done before gender equity is achieved in Canada and around the globe.
In fact, there is evidence that, globally, the gap in gender equality is widening. The 2017 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report measures gender equality benchmarks in four areas within 144 countries. Those areas include economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. The data predicts that global gender parity won’t be achieved for more than 200 years. We need to see more progress.
On the positive side, this past year, we have witnessed a strong global movement for gender equality gaining momentum. People around the world are experiencing significant shifts in their thinking about patriarchy and its ingrained, negative effects on gender equality. In response to this shift, the theme for International Women’s Day 2018 is Push for Progress. We need to remain motivated and united in our struggle for gender equality in order to change long-standing inequitable policies, practices, beliefs and traditions.
Collectively, we can all play a part. International Women’s Day belongs to all of us. As feminist Gloria Steinem said, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” Together, we can use our voices to push for progress and help make gender equality a reality in Canada—we can use our voices at our workplaces, at community gatherings, in our classrooms and at our dinner tables. Do what you can to make a positive difference for women in their struggle for gender equality, on International Women’s Day and every day.