Enough is enough: How to resist, organize, and act on International Women’s Day

By Jackie Hansen, Women’s Rights Campaigner

  • The World Economic Forum predicts it will take another 169 years for the gender pay gap to close. 169 years until we receive equal pay for equal work? Heck no.
  • Approximately 225 million women are unable to choose whether or when to have children. The result? Unsafe abortions kill 47,000 women and disable 5 million women each year.
  • An estimated 35% of women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence. Look around you right now. Do you see three women? At least one of them has likely experienced violence.
  • Women who don’t accept the status quo and stand up for their rights—like the right to drive, the right to vote, the right to live free from violence—often risk losing funding for their work, harassment, imprisonment, or worse.

Were you one of the three million people who took to the streets in January for the Women’s March? Did you stand in solidarity with Women’s March protesters? Women’s March participants weren’t just marching in the streets to protest claw-backs on hard-won women’s rights in the USA. We were also expressing our outrage at the continued inequality we experience in every country in the world.

Enough is enough. The status quo clearly isn’t working for women, and it’s definitely not working for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women, women of colour, Muslim women, disabled women, women living in poverty, non-binary folks, and lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. So let’s change the status quo!

This isn’t something that will magically happen. It’s something that each one of us has to work towards every single day. Maybe’s it’s openly identifying yourself as a feminist and a women human rights defender (someone who takes action to protect women’s human rights). Maybe it’s letting a friend know that their sexist remark is not acceptable. Maybe it’s giving some thought to what gender inequality and equality looks like in your own family or in your work place. Maybe it’s finding a way each day to don your invisible women human rights defender cape and write a letter, sign an e-action, attend a public event, or send a message to a women human rights defender at risk of violence to let her know that she’s not alone. Every action you take helps to smash sexism and create a more just and equal world.

On Wednesday, March 8th, International Women’s Day, and every day, let’s continue to RESIST, ORGANIZE, ACT, and STAND TOGETHER (and don’t forget to celebrate each other and our achievements!).

Ways to be a women human rights defender this week:


Wear red in solidarity with the #WomensStrike in the USA. Take a photo of yourself wearing red, holding a sign that says something like “solidarity with the #WomensStrike” and list your city, and post it on social media. Change your email out of office message to say “Happy International Women’s Day. I’m busy today defending women’s human rights. Would you like to join me? Visit www.amnesty.ca/women.” If people ask you why you’re wearing red, let them know you’re standing in solidarity with the Women’s Strike in the USA. On March 8, many women in the USA are wearing red, and many who are in a position to do so in the USA are walking away from work and unpaid labour to protest pay inequality and government policies which are putting women’s lives at risk. Visit the Women’s March in Canada website for more information.


Events are held in communities across Canada to celebrate International Women’s Day. Attend an event in your community. In Ottawa, Amnesty co-organizes the nation’s capital’s largest International Women’s Day event, which includes presentation of the annual Femmy awards to celebrate for outstanding local feminist achievements. In Toronto, Amnesty will be marching in the annual International Women’s Day march on March 11. Activists in Vancouver held an awareness-raising Women’s Human Rights at Risk event  on March 2. Amnesty activsts in Stratford, ON are are holding a women’s rights-themed pop-up Write for Rights event on March 11. And we know Amnesty supporters in many other communities across Canada are involved in their local International Women’s Day celebrations. To find an event in your community, have a look at the event listings on the International Women’s Day website, scour the comprehensive list of event posts on the Women’s March in Canada Facebook page, or reach out to local feminist organizations to see what they have planned.


I am, in my own homeland, convicted and imprisoned for the crime of being a human rights defender, a feminist and an opponent of the death penalty. [But] not only have my imprisonment and my recent 16-year sentence not made me feel any regret, they have actually strengthened my convictions and commitment to defending human rights more than ever before.” – Narges Mohammadi

A passionate advocate for women’s rights in Iran, Narges protested against acid attacks on women. This was just one of many efforts she has made to defend human rights, including calling for the abolition of the death penalty. She has paid dearly for her work and is now serving a total of 22 years’ imprisonment for daring to speak out. “In a land where being a woman, being a mother and being a human rights defender is difficult on their own, being all three is an unforgivable crime,” she recently wrote from prison. Narges is in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison and she is in poor health. She is a prisoner of conscience and we are calling for her immediate and unconditional release.

#ActNow to #FreeNarges. 


“When we’re together, there’s so much strength. Being able to smile even after finding out that your loved one was murdered. How can you not be inspired by women who have been to hell and back over their children? You know, fighting, trying to find justice. How can you not be inspired and want to continue fighting?” – Connie Greyeyes

Connie Greyeyes is an “accidental” activist. An Indigenous Cree woman living in northeast BC, she realized that a shocking number of Indigenous women in her community had gone missing or had been murdered. She began organizing to support  the families of these women and took the demand for a national inquiry to Ottawa. According to official figures, more than 1,000 Indigenous women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada in the last three decades. The efforts of Connie and many other Indigenous women across Canada have borne fruit, with the Canadian government finally announcing an inquiry in 2016.

Stand in solidarity with First Nations, Inuit and Metis women, families and communities throughout the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Connie and other activists in northeast BC have raised serious concerns about the negative impacts of large-scale industrial development on the health and safety of Indigenous women and girls. Amnesty shares their concerns that rising housing costs, rapid population growth and its accompanying strains on host communities are further marginalizing and endangering Indigenous women and girls, who are already at high risk of experience violence. The cost of doing business can’t be the well-being of Indigenous women and girls. 

Join Connie and call on on Canada to put the safety of Indigenous women and girls front and centre in decision-making around resource development projects.

If you were an Inuit woman needing to urgently flee from violence, there wasn’t a women’s shelter in your community, and you had to wait for the next flight out to reach a shelter that might not even have space for you, where would you turn to find safety? This is a question being faced by far to many Inuit women, and it’s an experience not uncommon to many First Nations and Metis women. 

Join First Nations, Inuit, and Metis women and organizations in calling for substantive equality in access to services and programming for women violence survivors.



Jackie Hansen is the Women’s Rights Campaigner with Amnesty International Canada. Follow her on Twitter @AI_WomenRights. Check out our Women’s Human Rights page and our Stolen Sisters campaign page.