As a female, how can I not honor International Women’s Day? This year the date is March 8th. As Gloria Steinem 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.”
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women’s Day is a national holiday. Interestingly that is not the case in the United States or Canada. Suffragettes campaigned for women’s right to vote. International Women’s Day celebrates women’s success and reminds us of inequities that require attention. The first International Women’s Day event was run in 1911.
So, I would like to honor women in general overall, those who often are struggling to balance a work-family load, those who are constantly ‘hitting’ the glass ceiling and those who have initiated and become involved with politics/political office.
As a Canadian, I would like to honour Hannah Gale, the first woman in Canada, and possibly the first in the British Commonwealth, to be elected to a position in any level of government in 1917, and she stayed in that position until 1923. The first woman elected to the House of Commons of Canada was Agnes Macphail in 1921. The issue of gender equality in politics continues to be a goal of Canadian parties. As of 2010, Canada ranked 50th in the world for women’s participation in politics. Considering that Canada is a democratic society, a 50th ranking is quite low. Women were legally able to vote in Canada between 1916 and 1960, depending on the province or territory. You read it correctly, it was only in 1960 that all women were given the right to vote in Canada!
In the United States, between 1860-1920, women ran for over 30 different political offices in the city, county, state, and national levels and this was before women were legally able to vote which occurred in 1920.
Elsewhere in the world the dates vary and for some countries women have not gained the right to vote yet. No matter what, women in political office is still an issue today all around the world. Why is it that more women do not run for political office? Now, if we go further than political spheres and enter mainstream society everywhere, women do not have equal footing with men, economically or socially from a humanity point of view. This also needs to change.
Let International Women’s Day be a message for equality and a call for those women who are interested to run for positions of power whether politically, as leaders of organizations and corporations, to seek equal status and equal pay with their male counterparts and to seek the right to choose their future destiny.
I salute all the women in history and today who advocate for equality, justice and freedom and hope that the women of the future will do the same.
Victoria Brewster, MSW
SJS Staff Writer in Canada