As we celebrate the continued accomplishments of women in our communities, heavy on our minds are the enduring challenges for women in all areas of our societies. In the past year, the global pandemic has endured and exposed more of its gendered impacts on women, girls, and gender diverse individuals. Unpaid care labour still falls largely to women, intimate partner violence increased, and income supports for sex workers were denied by the government. Women are also still recovering from unemployment, having lost more than twice the jobs as men at the start of the pandemic, and employment insecurity has further affected over half of Canada’s LGBTI households.
While it’s important to continue examining the ripple effects of COVID-19 in all areas of daily life, it’s important to look back critically on a year that was also rampant with many forms of gendered violence.
After being delayed in the first year of the pandemic, the federal government launched its long awaited 2021 National Action Plan (NAP) on ending violence against First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, and with it, a commitment of $2.2 billion to address the violence. Responses to the NAP by Indigenous groups and organizations were largely critical, calling the NAP inadequate in its explanation on how exactly Indigenous women and girls would be kept safe, nor clear on the precise timelines on when and by whom specific actions would be taken. Direct accountability from the government on its own role in creating the conditions for the violence were absent from the NAP as well. Needless to express, the urgency of this issue remains, and it’s essential we remain vigilant in our commitment to advance the 231 Calls for Justice in the National Inquiry’s Final Report into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Last August, our hearts paused once again as we saw the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan, and we rightly feared that Afghan women and girls would bear the brunt of the offensive. Right away, fundamental rights were restricted – girls above the age of 12 were not permitted to go to school, women were immediately excluded from holding government positions and faced severe restrictions on their rights to freedom of movement and freedom of assembly and expression. Economic challenges are also being experienced as one of the most pressing issues in the country, and women, especially those who are heads of households, are even more disproportionately affected. This blatant institutionalized discrimination against women threatens their safety and economic prosperity, and effective governance in the country It demands that we in the international community remain firm in our commitment to support women’s rights in Afghanistan.
The struggles for Muslim women and the gendered experience of Islamophobia have been especially difficult to ignore. Last year’s string of targeted and violent hate crimes against Somali women in Edmonton was a painful reminder that Muslim – and especially, racialized – women’s safety is perpetually at risk. We saw this manifest again in a horrific fatal attack against a Muslim family – three of its members were women – in London, Ontario last June. And having barely recovered from the grief of this tragedy, Muslim women grimaced once again upon hearing the news that a hijab-wearing teacher was forced out of her job because her headscarf was deemed to be a violation of Quebec’s Bill 21.
Descriptions of the faceless experience of racist gender-based violence can go on and on, and it’s difficult not to wonder when International Women’s Day can be celebrated with the secure knowledge that all women and girls are thriving and have their wellbeing protected. What we do know is that this journey is paved by the work of activists demanding accountability and change from their governments, and by the resiliency of those who engage in all forms of protest. In our ultimate vision for women and girls, their rights and lives are fully upheld and protected, and weighted with the value they have always deserved. It’s our actions that will bring us there.
- Deepen Your Activism to Help End Violence Against Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People
Read our Stolen Sisters campaign guide and follow its guidance to deepen your activism.
2. Act in Solidarity with Afghan Women
Take action now to urge for international support. The Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan in August 2021 has resulted in sweeping changes to the lives of all Afghans, but Afghan women and girls face especially severe restrictions on their fundamental rights.
Read our toolkit to find more ways to act in solidarity.
3. Act in Solidarity with Muslim Women and Others Impacted by Bill 21
Read more on the unfair politicization of the hijab: Muslim writer, Sarah Hagi, shares her personal and earnest reflections in her article I’m Exhausted By Quebec’s Racist Hijab Law.
4. Act in Solidarity with Muslims in Ontario
5. Attend Our Virtual Roundtable
Attend the virtual roundtable discussion: Feminism in the Climate Crisis, taking place on March 8th at 2PM EST/8PM CET.
6. Act in Solidarity with Wendy Galarza
Take action in support of Wendy, a human rights defender in Mexico who was subjected to a violent and near fatal assault by the police when speaking out for women’s rights.
7. Act in Solidarity with Women Human Rights Defenders in Saudi Arabia
Take action to support all the women human rights defenders who continue to be criminalized in Saudi Arabia.
8. Deepen Your Knowledge
- Read Samra Habib’s We Have Always Been Here, an essential memoir on the gendered experience of faith, queer sexuality, feminist spirit, and humanity. The accompanying discussion guide is available here.
- Read Farzana Doctor’s Seven; a powerful and captivating novel about the cultural practice of khatna (female genital mutilation) and the ties of intergenerational female relationships. The accompanying discussion guide is available here. More information and resources on ending FGM is available at END FGM Canada Network.
9. Share all these actions with people in your own communities!