"International Women's Day was celebrated for the first time [in Canada] in 1945." Photo by Keila MacPherson.
“International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time [in Canada] in 1945.” Photo by Keila MacPherson.
March 8 marks the annual celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD). Devoted to acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of women worldwide, IWD inspires women across the globe, reminding us that we are capable of accomplishing great things, regardless of our ethnic, national, cultural, sexual orientation, linguistic, political, or economic backgrounds.

The UN’s official theme for International Women’s Day is “Empowering Women – Empowering Humanity: Picture It!” With this theme, it becomes obvious that women worldwide are still experiencing challenges that prevent them from pursuing happy, healthy, and hopeful lives. The fact that we have to “Picture” how empowering women empowers humanity reminds us that issues like gender inequality are holding back humanity from reaching its full potential to be peaceful, happy, and just. While IDW reminds us that women have accomplished so much, it also reminds us that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that all women have the same opportunities as men to pursue their goals.

Gender Inequality creates barriers for access to a wide range of basic needs, such as: healthcare, education, food security, housing, economic pursuits, and protection from sexual and violent acts. When we think of gender inequality, I think many of us glance at developing nations as being the culprits of this inequality. But if we stop and look around, we can see that gender inequality is in our own backyard; it’s all around us.

In October 2014, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released their report “Progress on Women’s Rights: Missing in Action: A Shadow Report on Canada’s Implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action”. While the report reveals that Canadian women have achieved high levels of health and education, these levels are not distributed evenly amongst Canadian women.

A large factor of gender inequality in Canada is economic related. The report states that: “Employment levels are lower yet among some groups of women in Canada. Immigrant women’s employment lags seven percent behind Canadian born women and 14 percent behind that of immigrant men. Aboriginal women’s employment rates are five percent below that of Aboriginal men and 11 percent below that of non-Aboriginal women.” When employment opportunities are not evenly distributed across all groups, it does not take long for an individual to fall into poverty.

Another inequality factor that greatly affects women in Canada is domestic abuse and sexual assault. Northern provinces and territories have the highest rates of sexual assault and domestic abuse, compared to the rest of Canada. Workplace violence is also a serious problem facing women. The fact that “over a million women in Canada report having experienced either sexual assault or intimate partner violence in the past five years” is very disheartening.

These factors highlight the need for us to work together to end the gap in gender equality. So, as IWD approaches, we should all take the time to reflect on how we can end gender inequality on both a local and global scale. It is much to my delight that I can inform you about an International Women’s Day presentation and celebration that is happening a couple of days before IWD, to get you inspired!

Presented by the Kawartha World Issues Centre and the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, “Mending the Gap in Gender Equality” is an IWD celebration on March 6, at SEEDS OF CHANGE (534 George Street North, Peterborough). The doors open at 5:30pm, and at 6pm, there will be a potluck, music, and celebration.

The panel presentation and discussion will be at 7pm. There is a pretty great line-up of special guests as well: The Raging Grannies, Hattie Edwards: Akwesasne First Nation, Amy Keating: Trent Feminist Society, Kristen Mommertz: Courage Peterborough/Hollaback Movement, Margaret McGraw: Trent University Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, Aisha Jamal: Independent Film Maker, and more.

This event is FREE, and all are welcome in this gender and child friendly space.

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Pursuing a career in Environmental Law, Sara is studying Environment and Resource Studies (with an emphasis in Policy and Law), and is loving every minute of it. Sara first got involved with the Arthur covering Peterborough's hip and vibrant arts scene, and through these articles, has fallen in love with this city's welcoming community. A crazy cat lady, tea junky, Potterhead and Whovian, this tree-hugger is happiest frolicking in the woods--especially in Jackson Park and the LEC Drumlin. Sara is also a proud chocoholic, and Montreal bagel binge-eater, so if you want to get on her good side, come bearing gifts of fair-trade dark chocolate and those glorious "everything" Montreal bagels.