The theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021 is ‘Choose To Challenge‘. Recognizing that a “challenged world is an alert world and with that awareness will come change.” As we at Connect participate and raise awareness about International Women’s Day we want to challenge all those who claim that we no longer need an International Women’s Day. So we challenge those who believe the fight has been won, those who say we need to focus our energies on something else, and those who say it is time to give screen time to more “current” causes.
The disbelief in the need for an International Women’s Day is gaining momentum in younger generations in developed societies, after all, there are “more” women in medicine, in space and even the White House. Without a doubt society has changed its belief on whether a woman can work and be a mother but by no definition does that mean working mothers are treated equal to working fathers. We know that in developed countries the ingrained complexity of patriarchy has simply become too discrete and too subtle to suggest otherwise. However, if gender equality has been achieved in developed countries and International Women’s Day is not needed then why:
- Did 43% of young women who were surveyed by the UN experience harassment on the streets in London, UK in 2017?
- Are only 10% of sexual assaults are reported in Canada, and of those, very few perpetrators held to account for their actions?
- Are Indigenous women in North America more likely to experience domestic abuse, addiction, trauma, and being murdered or declared missing than Caucasian women?
- Do women in the UK essentially work for free two months a year based on a known gender pay gap?
- Do women only hold about 10% of the top executive positions at U.S. companies, with women making up just 5% of chief executives? 
- Why does Canada still have laws, policies and practices that targeted Indigenous women for abuse, exclusion and dispossession?
Those who question the need for International Women’s Day often fail to consider how varied the fight for equality continues to be different for women around the world.
The UN found that 90% of women and girls In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea experienced some form of sexual violence.
- In El Salvador, Nicaragua and in the USA women have been arrested and jailed for decades after suffering a miscarriage or complications with their pregnancies. In 2007, at just 18 years old, Carmen Guadalupe Vasquez was sentenced to 30 years in prison after suffering a miscarriage. She was wrongly accused of having an abortion, which is outlawed in all circumstances in El Salvador.
- In May 2015, a male-only, unelected village council in Baghpat, Utter Pradesh India ruled that two teenage sisters should be raped and paraded naked with their faces blackened as punishment for their brother’s actions (marrying above his caste).
- On August 16, 2015, Ferdous Al Toum was found guilty of “indecent or immoral dress” and sentenced to 20 lashes and a fine of 500 Sudanese pounds.
- Women in Saudi Arabia who protest a law against women driving still face jail time.
- More than 700 million women alive today were married before they were 18 – about 1 in 3 of them before she was 15.
As Dr. Jen Gunter pointed out in her interview with Flare magazine, the world will need International Women’s Day “As long as women earn less than men for the same job, are penalized for pregnancy at work, bear the burden of contraception, are less represented in arts and sciences and every field. As long as ‘manels’ (panels of all men when there are qualified women who are overlooked) exist.
Whether in the form of celebration or protest, IWD gives everyone an opportunity to renew the call for gender equality. For that to happen organizers, supporters, and participants need to publicly and privately make the day mean more than mutual admiration – it must mean action as it once did. We need to ensure a diversity of women are able to be involved in raising their voices and that of their sisters. We need governments and corporations to recognize that gender inequality is interconnected and nothing short of intersectional and trauma-informed approaches to decision making will allow a balancing of scales. As a society made of individual purchasing power, we have to stop giving social capital to those corporations who don’t practice what they preach on March 8th all year long.
So here at Connect we are going to continue to honour International Women’s Day and challenge all those who think we don’t need it anymore to ask themselves if every woman they meet today has the same rights and access as they do. We are going to remind the organizations we work with and work for that gender equality is a human right.
We are going to further challenge everyone, to realize that the world as we know it, won’t see gender parity for 100 more years. That means we need to wait until 2121 to ask if we still need an International Women’s Day. Until then, let’s honour the women who came before us and in doing so, honour the women who will come after us, and continue to challenge the status quo for the next 99.5 years. Perhaps Malala Yousafzai said it best….