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International Women’s Day 2021 – Choose to Challenge

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March 8, 2021, marks International Women’s Day. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the status and plight of women. It’s also a time to celebrate the victories that show that we are on the right track.

Women have made and continue to make many contributions to advance our society. OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is reaffirming the union’s commitment to gender equality and will continue to support organizations that help to further women’s rights around the world.

“Fighting for women’s rights is one of the most important battles our union must win,” said Thomas. “COVID-19 has made this fight even more important because the pandemic has affected women around the world in so many different ways, especially racialized and Indigenous women.”

Dr. Theresa Tam, the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, has become the country’s face in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. This, despite an increase in incidents of anti-Asian racism since the start of the pandemic. Her calm and steadfast approach has reassured Canadians despite ongoing distress and doubts. We support her ongoing calls for “structural change” across health, social, and economic sectors to address inequalities exposed by the pandemic.

This year’s International Women’s Day is vastly different from how we viewed it a year ago. Nearly 12 months into a global pandemic, and after many protests in response to ongoing racial and gender inequality, we can see a pronounced shift in world consciousness.

Social media has made it difficult to sweep incidents of violence and oppression under the rug. It has also helped in holding political and other leaders accountable.

“We are now living in a time where we must all speak out against injustice. We must never give up on our vision of a just and fair world,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida.

The legacies of civil rights icons such as United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Lewis continue to inspire people to achieve greater equality for women across North America.

“Choose to Challenge is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day and it is very fitting to describe what a very challenging year it has been for all of us,” said Dianne Clarabut, Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Provincial Women’s Committee (PWC).

“The PWC’s mandate is to achieve positive changes for women. We lift each other and work to break down barriers put in place to prevent our growth.”

Thankfully, women continue to break that glass ceiling each and every day. Dr. Gelareh Zadeh was appointed the Dan Family Chair in the Division of Neurosurgery at the University of Toronto in August 2020. This distinction made her the first woman to lead one of the largest neurosurgical programs in the world and the first to be named neurosurgery chair in Canada. When she started in neurosurgery 20 years ago, only 11 per cent of the field were women.

We must also celebrate the ground-breaking achievements of Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States. She is the first female and the first Black and South Asian person to hold the country’s second most powerful office. As she says: “if we do not lift up women and families, everyone will fall short.”