March 8 is recognized as International Women’s Day (IWD).
It is a day that marks a call to action to advance gender parity and recognizes the many achievements of women, whether social, political, cultural or economic.
This year marks 110 years of IWD; the first held in 1911 with marches and demonstrations attended by more than one million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
The topics at the time included women’s rights to vote, to seek work outside the home and to be paid fairly to do that work.
It seems, sometimes, that not much has changed over the course of more than a century.
Progress, in any area, is measured in glacial speeds. However, to be fighting much of the same fight as our great-grandmothers and beyond only adds insult to injury.
The United Nations states this year’s theme to be “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world,” alongside the IWD campaign “choose to challenge.”
Nunavut can boast many impressive women in leadership positions, including Commissioner Eva Aariak, Pauktuutit President Rebecca Kudloo, NTI President Aluki Kotierk, MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, five members of the legislative assembly and countless Elders who enrich our lives with their knowledge.
Gloria Steinem, activist, feminist and journalist once 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.”
All people should be invested in women’s rights and evening out the starting lines.
The Global Gender Gap Report, published in 2020, states, “Although education attainment as well as health and survival enjoy much closer to parity … it will take 95 years to close the gender gap in political representation.”
After 100 years, it’s nice to know women at least have a near-equal chance of surviving into adulthood and have the right to go to any level of schooling they choose – at least in certain countries. But the report goes on to state that, despite these advances, being able to work and earn money and even the opportunities to do so are in sharp decline with many jobs being automated and a lack of participation in growing industries.
This “deteriorating situation (is) forcing gender parity to a lowly 57.8 per cent, which in time represents a massive 257 years before gender parity can be achieved.”
These figures are on a global scale – North America is second on the list of regions to have made the most progress in gender parity at 72.9 per cent, but translated to years it’s still a staggering 151 years before we might see women on equal economic footing to men.
This matters in a territory so scourged by violence against women, who often have no place to turn.
Poverty, inequality, and violence are all interconnected.
These are not just issues that women must speak up about, but men as well. Men are our most valuable allies in these fights against discrimination, and we must all challenge the systems that not only hold women back, but also hold men firmly in place.
Only by working together to challenge the status quo will we be able to achieve any sort of equality before another two centuries have passed us by.