women's day international

happy iwd. yeah, happy happy joy joy. oda's slight of hand yesterday - another in a series of pre-electoral posing by team harper - is downright sinister. she got wise after all the opposition and pressure and put back into swc the exact amount she took out six months ago. cute. but no reversal whatsoever on the removal of "equality" from the department's mandate. and they'd rather eat glass than dare go back on the decision to prohibit the use of federal funding for such heinous activities as lobbying or advocacy. nope, just a return of the paltry amount of money they cut in the first place. and we're supposed to see them/this as ... what exactly? generous? charitable? an endorsement of the value of the work swc does? it's no different than throwing a thousand bucks at parents and calling it a child care strategy. moving chump change back and forth does not an equality-supporting strategy make. the conservatives are hoping all these robin hood acts will trigger short-term memory loss among voters. my only fear is that it just might work, which says far more about my feelings toward the electorate than the harper people.

for some people iwd is a time to gather, rally, commemorate, or even OCCUPY. i say it's an occasion to Say Something. here's a
commentary i wrote recently and never got around to shopping around.

Is International Women’s Day an occasion to take stock of our successes in inching closer to true women’s equality? Absolutely. Many advancements here at home are cause for celebration, as is the support we give to women around the world through foreign aid and development assistance.

But the pesky truth about women’s equality is that it does not yet exist. IWD should remind us of how far we need to go as much as of how far we have come.

The truth speaks for itself. If you are a woman on this planet, you are more likely to be poor, more likely to be a victim of violence, more likely to be voiceless, and more likely to be not in charge. You are less likely to have access to education, services, or corridors of power.

We are comfortable in Canada – we sure have come a long way, baby. Yet here, as elsewhere, the truth about the cycle of poverty is undeniable. Women and girls are systematically more vulnerable, and systemically denied access to the very resources that would foster equality.

Canada is internationally renowned for generosity, and Canadians can indeed take pride in the giving spirit that has contributed to inspirational achievements in communities the world over. Where developing nations are concerned, we seem to understand the importance of women’s empowerment. And I think Canadians are capable of going beyond whatever trendy women's cause is garnering Oprah-like attention. We have a deeper appreciation of what it will take for women in the Middle East to experience freedom, for African women to escape poverty, for South American women to know safety. But how seriously do we take equality in Canada?

By shrinking the operating budget and crippling its ability to support groups that engage in advocacy or lobbying, the federal government has demonstrated its belief that the need for a bolstered government agency like Status of Women Canada is over. As if throwing a bit of money at service organizations is investing in true strategies for balancing the gender divide.

It’s not that we worry that Mr. Harper doesn’t care about women’s safety or their access to services. The concern is that Mr. Harper is out of touch with reality – that he doesn’t get how the realities of women’s lives are interconnected. Sure, women are not a homogenous group. But systemic discrimination affects all women in the same way. Women’s employability is about more than women’s education. Women’s education is about more than economic viability. Child care is about more than family support. Housing and social assistance is about more than social development. Sheltering abused women without addressing the root causes of violence means we miss a huge part of women’s security.

There is a war right here at home on the rights of women. The federal government has shown an aversion to equality-seeking strategies, opting instead for policy by stealth. We were this close to having a national childcare program and have now basically reinvented mother’s allowance and preemptively struck down a coherent national system of support for families. The federal government has banned federally-funded women’s groups from doing advocacy or lobbying work. The federal government has considerably downsized the sole federal department that monitors and promotes Canada’s commitments to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

They do this at a time when everyone knows the stats about women’s lower income, women’s under-representation in elected office, and when women are proportionately poorer.

They do this at a time when violence against women is commonplace. Recent reports of gruesome testimony from the Pickton trial make the Paul Bernardo case seem mild. We can’t seem to go a month in Canada without hearing of another woman murdered at the hands of her husband. Stories about missing women are so common, they’ve become like white noise. Women’s lives – or the expendability of them – are sensational enough for the evening news, but apparently not enough for the Harper government who would sooner mock women’s equality than support it.

And so the question we should all be asking, appropriately so today: Does the Harper government really believe in celebrating women, or merely in aiding the ongoing denial of our equality?


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