As another International Women’s Day goes by…

Sabrina Almeida

As my inbox was flooded with International Women’s Day (IWD) messages, all from lady friends, I felt obliged to return the greetings. It seemed the courteous thing to do, even though I don’t subscribe to the concept, especially because all the messages had good intentions. So, for the first time I wished that I could experience the joy the senders felt instead of seeing this day as an annual PR exercise.

I believe that IWD, and women in particular, would be better served by planned affirmative action rather than just putting a few role models on display. For in reality, what we’ve achieved in terms of gender parity might be not worth celebrating at all.

Just a few days earlier UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres made the dire prediction that gender equality is “300 years away”. Which means we will not see it happen in our lifetime, nor will the next three generations.

My broodings might upset those who see International Women’s Day celebrations as encouraging girls to reach out for their dreams. However, I subscribe to the belief that providing opportunities and support is more likely to help get them to where they want to be than a mere pat on the back.

It’s a shame that the obstacles women face today are the same as what their great grandmothers experienced. Sexual abuse, intimate partner violence and unequal pay still hold women back in developed countries like Canada and the US, as they do in the developing world. Who would have imagined that a leader of the developing world would take away women’s reproductive rights by making abortion illegal.

So, we must examine our true intentions for celebrating women on March 8. Is it simply a day to exhibit political correctness or are we really committed to closing the gap between men and women? How many more females do we have in STEM learning and decision-making positions than we did a year ago? That’s a more logical way to determine whether our gender-equality strategies are working and how much faster we need to act.

As I’ve said in the past couple of years, International Women’s Day should not be limited to an annual feel-good exercise. It’s not about being better than countries with a dismal record in women’s rights but raising the bar in our own communities. The Olympic winning Canadian women’s soccer team should not have to fight for equal treatment in a country that claims to promote gender parity, no?

Perhaps the only way to promote an ‘equality mindset’ is by mandating it rather than just waiting for it to happen. By this I mean making education gender responsive and reserving positions for women in male-dominated streams.

But in the end gender equality will be achieved when it becomes a way of life.  This can only happen when men and women are treated equally at home. This means not giving sons preferential treatment or marginalizing them either… allowing girls to choose the careers they want, not forcing them to give it all up for marriage… and above all men and women sharing home and child-rearing responsibilities equally.  

Given the giant steps we must all take, it’s easier to understand why we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to treating women equally. So should we celebrate or not?



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here