In these days when the unequal treatment of Black, Indigenous, people of colour (BIPOC) and LGBTQ2S+ people has taken over the headlines, it is easy to forget there is another group of people — one that represents half the population — which has yet to fully achieve the benefits of the egalitarian society to which we profess to aspire.
March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD). The theme for 2021 is Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 world.
While the day celebrates the 110 years of progress that has been made since it was inaugurated in 1911, the ongoing pandemic has underscored the fact that women still face inequalities in their day-to-day lives.
We should also remember that BIPOC, LGBTQ2S+ women and women with disabilities tend to fare worse than their male counterparts even within their own demographics.
The greatest challenge facing the world today is recovery from the pandemic.
Organizers of IWD 2021 want to see diverse women’s voices play a fundamental role in planning that recovery.
That should not be too much to ask for one very simple reason.
Every struggle of the past century-plus, from the suffrage movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the women’s liberation and gay rights movements of the 1960s and ’70s to the more recent Me Too campaign to the current Indigenous reconciliation and Black Lives Matter protests have not been about women’s rights or gay rights or Black rights or Indigenous rights.
They have been about human rights.
If we could just accept this fundamental concept that all people are equally valid, perhaps it would not be so difficult to achieve the goal of ensuring they are equally treated.
We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the progress. A century ago women could not vote. Now they are represented at the highest levels of governments.
A century ago even if they were allowed to work, their career prospects were severely limited. Now they ply virtually every trade and profession imaginable.
A half century ago, reproductive rights were almost non-existent. Now they are enshrined in the highest law of the land.
Great progress, indeed.
But progress is not always as linear as it should be. COVID-19 has proven that.
With the recovery, however, we have an opportunity to move forward rather than step back.