International Women’s Day is an event with its roots in the labour movement. Over 100 years ago, women took to the streets to demand better wages and working conditions. Our members engage many different events to mark this day, but each event has a common theme: celebrating our achievements and recommitting our efforts to fight for gender equality. It is more than just being equal to men; our efforts must recognize the systemic injustice and violence that women face.
Unifor women are active right across the country and in the last year have had many successes to celebrate: we helped defeat a regressive federal government and put a progressive agenda in place; we’ve helped secure an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls; we brought down a sexist billboard in Killam, Alberta; and we shut down a misogynist group hoping to host meet ups in our communities. We donated almost $150,000 to women’s shelters across the country to ensure women receive these crucial services. In 2016 we marked 100 years of the first women in Canada getting the right to vote, which included putting a spotlight on the many women who were excluded.
There is still much work to be done and Unifor is up for the challenge – the union is continuing to advocate for change. Unifor made submissions to different levels of government calling for an increase in women in skilled trades, supporting paid domestic violence leave, and closing the gender wage gap. Unifor activists lobbied the new federal Minister of the Status of Women to press our demands for a universal child care program, re-opening Status of Women offices, restoring funding to feminist organizations working on gender equality, developing an action plan on violence against women, and addressing women’s financial insecurity due to unpaid caregiving and wage inequity.
This spring, Unifor women will be engaging our members in the Manitoba and Saskatchewan elections, making our equality agenda a reality.
Let this International Women’s Day be a reminder to all of us that we can make transformative change for justice.