Today is one of the, if not the, most important day of the year. Today is a day of reflection, learning, progress, and action. As cliche as it may sound, today is a day where we must really reflect on how far we’ve come, and critically analyze how far we need to go.
Women have come so far in the past hundred years. We have fought for and won the right to own property, be recognized by the law as people (as opposed to property), and vote. Women are now outnumbering men in achieving undergraduate education. In Canada, we have a gender-balanced cabinet. In the United States, there are a record number of women in congress (and perhaps a record number of women running for president as well).
All of these things are absolutely wonderful and we should be happy and proud and celebrate this. However, there are some things that we should not be proud of.
One in four women in North America will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. One. In. Four. Sexual violence is pervasive in our society and something we must all work together to end. How do we do this? To end sexual violence, we need to end sexism. To end sexism, we need better representation in media, we need to end the objectification of women in everything (but especially the media), we need comprehensive sex education in schools that teaches children that no means no, and also teaches them that saying no is okay. We need equal pay for equal work.
This International Women’s Day, we must also think about how to increase access to education for girls around the world. We need to end the stigma surrounding menstruation. We need to end child marriage. We must stop female genital mutilation. We must end gender-based violence and femicide. We need more women running for office at all levels of government.
You might think to yourself “well, I’m just one person. What can I do to really change the world and make it a better place for women?” My friend, I have some answers.
Last, but certainly not least, I leave you with this. To all my fellow activists, pay attention to who is in the room with you. More importantly, pay attention to who isn’t. Whose voices are missing from your activism? Figure out why, then fix it. Advocating for women’s rights is not about advocating for some women. It’s about all of us.
Happy International Women’s Day.
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