Every year on March 8th, International Women’s Day (IWD) is recognized to mark and acknowledge the historical struggle of women for equality and social justice. This day is about celebrating the power of all women from different racial, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic, and political backgrounds.
KWIC has organized local and free IWD events annually for over 20 years with our community partners.
For IWD 2021, our event was held in partnership with the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre. It was held virtually on Monday March 8th, from 6:30pm-8:30pm.
Our theme was called #ChoosetoChallenge which we adopted from the InternationalWomen'sDay.com website, where they state, “A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change”.
Together, we explored gender equity and its connection to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 5), the intersections of sexism and racism, the effect of COVID-19 on women, and how we take care of ourselves and each other during these turbulent times.
Guest speakers and participants included Chief Laurie Carr of Hiawatha First Nation, Reem Ali, Interim Director of Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, Elder and Knowledge Keeper Wanda Whitebird, and Jennifer Maramba of the Kapwa Collective, OCAMA Birthworkers Collective, and the Centre for Babaylan Studies.
History of International Women's Day
by Yolanda Ajak (for KWIC's blog, 2012)
International women’s day was initially celebrated by and later adopted by the United Nations to be celebrated on March 8th during International Women’s Year in 1975. Shortly after, in 1977 the U.N General Assembly endorsed a declaration to implement a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace, to be recognized by nations in accordance with their national traditions. The aims and objectives in implementing this resolution were to increase awareness on the vital role of women in peace efforts and development, with aims to end discrimination and achieve women’s full and equal contribution to the world.
Overview of Women's Struggles in Canadian Context
First and foremost, the struggle of women for equality is significant simply due to the fact that initially entrenched in supreme law and marriage vows, marriage in the 1800’s granted men complete control of women including their bodies and inheritance. Women were controlled by their Fathers, brothers, and husbands, before having any self-authority. Along with slaves, servants, the criminally insane, and men who did not own property, women were not recognized as citizens and did not earn the right to vote or participate in any political affairs.
In 1928, the Supreme Court ruled that women were not “persons” under the British North America Act, and therefore could not be appointed to the senate. But when World War I resulted in a shortage of men taking on the roles of society, women found themselves taking on those roles and working in new ways such as heavy labour and administration.
The right for women to vote became permitted in increments, starting with women who served as nurses in WWI, then women who were British subjects and wives, widows, mothers, sisters and daughters of men who served in the Canadian or British military or naval forces. Unmarried women and widows weren't granted the right to vote in municipal elections in Ontario until 1884. Such voting rights were eventually approved across Canada by the end of the 19th century. However, the bill for women to vote in provincial elections was continuously denied until Manitoba succeeded in 1916 with Alberta following the same year.
On June 4th 1920, women in Canada earned the right to vote and run for public office. It was not until 1960 that all women - including Indigenous women over the age of 18, regardless of ethnic background or origin - were permitted to vote and run for office in Canada. On October 18th, 1929 women were finally declared "persons" under Canadian law due to the perseverance of five Alberta Women: Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards.