International Women's Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam, and Bulgaria, it is observed as a national holiday. While women have made great gains over the years, women around the world are underrepresented in positions of power and authority, often make less than their male counterparts, and are much too frequently the victims of violence. In many countries, women are more likely to die in childbirth than they are to go to school. And of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty, 70 % are women and girls. In Canada, women earned the right to vote in 1916 (in the province of Manitoba, thought it took several more years for other provinces and the federal government to allow the vote), many years after men had the same right. And approximately one in four Canadian women over their lifetime will experience abuse at their partner’s hands.While much more remains to be done to improve women’s rights and safety, Canadian women of all races and religions should be acknowledged for their accomplishment and achievements:

Increasing participation of women in politics: There are 67 female Members of Parliament, the most ever.Women in academics: women make up the majority of students at post-secondary institutions

Women in leadership positions in the workforce: In 2007, 35% of those employed in managerial positions were women. 35% of small businesses in British Columbia are owned by women. Women’s labour force participation: The labour force participation rate for working-age women (15-64 years) has risen from 68.2 per cent to 74.3 per cent over the past decade (1997-2008). Over half of the 421,200 jobs created in British Columbia since December 2001 were filled by women.

Hundreds of events around the world are held for International Women’s Day. These events are intended to celebrate the many achievements of women in the economic, political and social spheres. In Canada, International Women’s Day has grown into a week-long commemoration. The Status of Women Canada (SWC) is the federal department responsible for advancing equality for women and to remove the barriers to women’s participation in society. Status of Women Canada’s mandate is “to coordinate policy with respect to the status of women and administer related programs.”

Each nation each is able to choose its own theme each year for International Women’s Day. In Canada, last year’s theme was “Strong Women. Strong Canada. Strong World” focusing on women’s leadership potential and women’s access to leadership roles. The United Nations theme for 2011 is “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.”