Tomorrow is International Women’s Day – a day recognized by the United Nations for more than 40 years.
It’s a day to celebrate the achievements of all women as we strive to remove barriers, end violence and move toward a more equitable future.
This year also marks a sombre milestone. It is almost one year since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic – a pandemic that has exacerbated existing inequities, and exposed and amplified systemic barriers.
Most of us could not have imagined the degree and speed to which our daily lives have changed. So many lives have been lost, our social connections limited, our mental health impacted, and economic insecurity and anxiety increased.
Women have been disproportionately hit by this pandemic – over-represented in lower-wage, part-time work, and the tourism and hospitality sector. Women have also lost more work, for longer.
At home, senior and child care are most often done by women – and this year brought new challenges, fears and anxiety. Reports of intimate partner, family and other forms of gender-based violence have increased.
The impacts on economic insecurity, care responsibilities and violence are further amplified for Indigenous women, women of colour, women with disabilities, sex workers and people in the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
As we mark International Women’s Day, we must both recognize the challenges and losses, and celebrate those who have stepped up during the global pandemic.
These include workers who made sure we could safely go to the grocery store; care providers who are nothing short of heroes, continuing to provide care in our health-care system as well as for our children and seniors; teachers who continue to teach our kids while keeping them safe in this new world; and those working in the community and not-for-profit sector who found new ways to provide help and services when our community needed them most.
These workers and so many others – disproportionately women – have got us through this year.
While this has been a long road and we have a way to go yet, vaccines are on the horizon and the light at the end of this tunnel gets brighter every day.
As we look forward, we must continue to undo and dismantle the systemic inequities and barriers that have been exposed and amplified by the crisis of this past year. The challenge before us is not for the faint of heart.
However, I am honoured to do my part in ensuring the future for all women represents more than a return to the status quo. Rather, it represents a transformation toward equity, opportunity, justice and safety from all forms of violence for everyone.
This is the challenge we are committed to, and I ask all British Columbians to mark this International Women’s Day and join us in our fight for gender equity.