On March 8, the world united under the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), pledge for parity and celebrated woman across the globe. Many Canadian cities also hosted events to showcase the important role of women and how the country can work together to balance the scales.
“It’s really important to have a day where we can take stock and look at the good and the bad and where we still want to go. There are some things to celebrate, absolutely, I mean women and girls have more freedom than before in many ways in terms of economic freedoms, personal freedoms, legal freedoms certainly there are things to celebrate,” said Diane Hill, Senior Director of Public Engagement for the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
Though Canadians, as a whole, have done a lot to balance the scales in favour of gender parity, Hill says there’s still a lot of work to be done, and IWD is a perfect opportunity to gauge our progress. The Canadian Women’s Foundation is on the frontlines, engaging with grassroots organizations that assist women in Canada still suffering from the negative consequences of gender inequality, including sexual violence.
“There are many many girls and women in Canada that are facing pretty severe challenges… there was some recent research done that states one-third of women globally experience violence in intimate relationships, and we’re not immune to that in Canada by any means,” said Hill.
Hill explained that polls suggest that a majority of Canadians have been personally affected by sexual violence. The organization also seeks to reach out to women who are especially marginalized in their communities, such as aboriginal women.
In accordance with this year’s international theme, the Canadian Women’s Foundation also works to eliminate economic disparities between genders, recognizing that women still get paid less than men in some instances. The foundation has specific programs in place to help women in Canada move out of poverty.
For this year’s IWD, the Foundation co-hosted a talk by American feminist and journalist Gloria Steinem in Calgary on March 8. The talk is entitled “The Longest Revolution” and Steinem discussed the role of youth in the revolution for gender equality.
The Foundation also launched a campaign on IWD entitled “As We Are.” The campaign reaches out to adolescent females to educate them about certain clothes that feature “cute” phrases that actually have a derogatory connotation.
“One of them is something like ‘I’m too pretty to do algebra, so my brother does it for me.’ A lot of those messages are that the most important thing about a girl is how she looks, and the unspoken message is the most important thing about a girl is her sexual attractiveness,” explained Hill.
To combat messages like this, the Canadian Women’s Foundation brought in girls to create their own t-shirts with their own messages. The t-shirts will be available for sale through the foundation.
Hill believes that this age group is especially important to reach out to because adolescent years are when girls tend to lose their confidence, and it can lead to unhealthy body image and exploitive relationships.
Other organizations, like the National Council of Women of Canada, are also hosting events across the country that celebrate outstanding women in their local communities. They also hosted an event entitled Celebrating 100 Years of Progress” at the Library & Archives Canada on March 8.
Overall, Hill says the Foundation is encouraging Canadian parents to take IWD as an opportunity to discuss gender disparities with their daughters and sons.
“I think the more that we can look at those old gender stereotypes and consider the personal and social costs of them then the better. I think gender equality is about creating a better society for both men and women…it a good day to reflect on what we’ve learned,” said Hill.
Several other events are being hosted by cities across Canada in honour of International Women’s Day. Many bases and wings are also hosting events to highlight the achievements and role of women.
For more information about the Canadian Women’s Foundation visit their website .
Or for more information about the National Council of Women of Canada visit their website .
To learn about International Women’s Day visit their website.