Women’s lives have improved dramatically in the western world in the past century and especially since International Women’s Day was instituted as March 8 by the United Nations in 1977.
But a look at statistics reveals that gender parity is still a long way from being achieved by any measure in Canada. For example, Canadian women earn only 84 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, putting our country at 31st spot out of 36 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries in that category.
Today, Canada’s House of Commons consists of only 29 per cent women MPs, and the Northwest Territories is the only territory or province with a female premier.
And statistics related to violence against women are alarming. According to the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, rates of partner and domestic homicide have declined in Canada over the past 30 years, which is good news. But still, 118 women and girls were murdered in Canada in the first 11 months of 2019. Fifty-seven per cent of those were killed by their intimate partners. Indigenous and racialized women are at greatest risk of being killed in Canada.
International Women’s Day serves to keep those sorts of facts in the spotlight, while also honouring women who have worked and continue to work to change them.
On Salt Spring, trailblazing Canadian women were featured in films shown by local organizations over the weekend. On March 8 at ArtSpring, SWOVA and IWAV teamed up to screen The Gender Lady: The Fabulous Dr. May Cohen, a documentary about a pioneer in the women’s health field, followed by a wide-ranging panel and audience discussion. The day before at the library, the local chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women and the library co-sponsored 20th Century Gals, a “docudramedy” by island resident Sylvia Spring that looks at a century of progress and roadblocks for Canadian women as they’ve attempted to achieve equality in politics, the workplace, family responsibilities and sexuality.
Conversations that occur on International Women’s Day remind everyone that “equality” is still elusive and that much work needs to be done — by people of all genders — which makes it a vital day in the Canadian calendar.