Each year during the month of October, we celebrate Women’s History Month. This began in 1992 when the Government of Canada designated October as Women’s History Month, marking the beginning of an annual month-long celebration for the outstanding achievements of women throughout Canada’s history. As we celebrate Women’s History Month 2021, we reflect upon the advances women have made over the last decade. Women’s History Month includes International Day of the Girl on October 11, 2021. The International Day of the Girl Child is an annual and internationally recognized observance that empowers girls and amplifies their voices. Like its adult version, International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, International Day of the Girl Child acknowledges the importance, power, and potential of adolescent girls by encouraging the opening up of more opportunities for them.  

We know that the pandemic has hurt more women since the work they perform is much more precarious in the part-time sectors. Without a National Child Care program, it has been a difficult period for the past 18 to 19 months. We urgently need to put women at the forefront of Canada’s recovery plans. We continue to honor the courageous women and girls who have made a lasting impact as pioneers in their fields. Whether as activists, teachers, nurses, business leaders, politicians, researchers, or artists, they have helped shape Canada into a thriving, diverse and prosperous country through their achievements and desire to make a difference. Women are natural nurturers and without their amazing ability to take care of households, children, families, pets and jobs, just to name a few, we would have a sad state of affairs. Women members of the labor movement encompass identities that resonate with the diversity of women including all immigrant communities, LBGTQ2+ rights, members with disabilities, as well as racialized voices.

The month commemorates the famous “Persons Case”, which on October 18, 1929, concluded with a ruling that Canadian women were ‘persons’ in society, with a right to vote. So, this day on October 18th, 2021 is an annual celebration of Persons Day in Canada. This holiday is connected to the case of Edwards v. Canada. The Persons Case opened the Senate to women, enabling them to work for change in both the House of Commons and the Upper House. Moreover, the legal recognition of women as “persons” meant that women could no longer be denied rights based on a narrow interpretation of the law.

Also, of importance and according to the organization Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) website which states: 

Until all women and gender diverse people have equitable access to good quality and affordable education, health services, food, clothing, and housing, gender equality will not be achieved. Until all women and gender diverse people are not disproportionately poor, gender equality will not be achieved.  

Gender discrimination intersects with other forms of oppression so that women living with multiple intersecting grounds of oppression are overwhelmingly poor: 36% of First Nations women (living off reserve); 33% of women who are visible minorities; 33% of women with disabilities; and 20% of women who identify as immigrants. 

LEAF works hard to address poverty issues and to call attention to how discrimination against women serves to make women even more poor. We are currently exploring the potential of a basic income to address gender inequality from an intersectional lens.

The rights of women must be reflected in all workplaces as well. Women’s History month is about consciously committing to gender equality in leadership positions and in asserting workplace rights with specific attention to a gender-based analysis. The changing roles and characteristics of Canadian women needs to be enshrined in policies as well as in collective bargaining language.

Just before Women’s history Month (WHM) this year, a Federal Election was held on September 20th, 2021 to ensure all women’s voices were heard across the country by making sure everyone got the chance to cast their ballot for those politicians who will keep Women’s rights at the forefront.

Despite the many victories, challenges remain but women will always continue to fight for a better world, better working conditions, better work/life balance and full respect for human rights.

UVAE Human Rights Committee