From the Editor: Let’s look beyond International Women’s Day

(File art/Kristen Frier)

(File art/Kristen Frier)

Growing up in society as a woman can come with many challenges, but it can also be an extremely liberating experience. 

I have seen the women in my life do amazing things, like start their own business, a new career path later in life, be a single mother, or ride their bike across the country by themselves. 

From being able to see these experiences as I grew up, it gave me the perspective that women are able to achieve anything they put their mind to and that I can do that too. 

International Women’s Day was on March 8, a day where women are celebrated for their achievements, educate and raise awareness for women equality, advocate for women’s rights, and “fundraise for female-focused charities” across the world, according to the International Women’s Day website. The theme this year was “#EmbraceEquity,” which is important to highlight as it shows that equality and equity are different. 

The first International Women’s Day was held in the United States on Feb. 28, 1909, as women garment workers went on strike in New York City against harsh working conditions in 1908. This then expanded to other countries like Canada on March 19, 1911, where “over a million women and men attended public events to show their support.” In 1975, the United Nations marked that year as International Women’s Year and decided to make March 8 International Women’s Day. 

International Women’s Day is a great way to celebrate women’s achievements as well as share the progress people have made for gender equality and where we still need to change. While this is an important day to recognize, we should shift the focus of advocating and learning about women’s achievements to the progress that still needs to be made in society every day. 

One circumstance that women face today is an increase in gender-based violence over the years. According to an infographic by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, 173 women and girls were “violently killed” across Canada in 2021, which is a 26 per cent increase from 2019. Last year, 184 people died due to gender-based violence. 

I remember when the Toronto van attack happened in April 2018. A 25-year-old man who self-identified as an incel drove a rented van and intentionally ran over pedestrians, killing 10 people, eight of which were women. More recently, random attacks have been happening on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) buses and subways, mostly against women. It’s important to recognize these issues still happen today and advocate towards change.

Other issues that women face are pay equity. Women working full-time in Canada make 76.8 cents on average for every dollar men make, and about 34 per cent of women and girls experience period poverty across the country. 

However, in British Columbia, we have seen some progress that should be celebrated. On Feb. 17, the province announced investing in maternity care and expanding the University of British Columbia’s midwifery program by adding more seats in their programs. 

The provincial government also introduced a new pay transparency legislation on March 7 to help close the gender pay gap. Starting Nov. 1, if passed, “all employers will be required to include wage or salary ranges on all publicly advertised jobs,” reads the government’s website.

Additionally, starting April 1, the provincial government will make all contraceptives free, including Plan B. These are positive steps for equity in the province. 

International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month are important as it shows the accomplishments women have made from a cultural, socioeconomic, and political standpoint, along with the progress that still needs to be made. However, it’s important to learn about these issues during the rest of the year. While issues are still happening in Canada, B.C. is making good progress in equity and I hope the rest of the country sees it as a leading example.