On March 8, International Women’s Day, we celebrate women’s struggles and achievements, think about the challenges ahead and reaffirm our commitment to gender justice.
The first IWD was marked in March 1911 by rallies in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Delegates to the second Socialist International Conference held in Copenhagen in 1910 had unanimously agreed to establish a day honouring the struggles of women for equal rights, at a time when women in most countries could not vote or hold political office. These were turbulent years, when women workers and social activists marched in the streets in North America and Europe demanding decent pay and working conditions as well as political rights.
Inequality is still a fact of life for women in 2015. Women continue to earn less on average than men and are more likely to live in poverty. They shoulder a bigger share of unpaid caregiving responsibilities and are at greater risk of experiencing sexual and physical violence. Women remain underrepresented in our Legislature and Parliament.
Our governments must take action on gender inequality. It has been almost four years since the Alward government axed the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women. We still don’t have an independent central body with the resources required to monitor government initiatives and coordinate work for change. The federal government record is no better in recent years. The Harper government’s ongoing attack on social justice and human rights started back in 2006 with the defunding of women’s advocacy groups.
We are now facing the challenge of the Gallant government’s Strategic Program Review, driven by a mission to reduce the budget deficit. Our experience during the Alward years has shown that spending cuts and other austerity measures don’t stimulate economic growth, create jobs or improve the health and well-being of the population. Austerity especially harms women, worsening their social and economic inequality.
Women stand to lose more when the government slashes public services and courts business investment through lower taxes. Cuts and privatization have a disproportionately negative effect on women. It is most often women who pick up the slack when there are public service cutbacks. They help care for relatives when health care services are reduced, for example, or opt to stay home or work part time when child care is too costly. When women lose public sector jobs, they lose relatively good paying jobs often with decent pensions and benefits rarely found in the private sector. Women suffer more when top earners and corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes to support services for the general good.
Women and society benefit from public investment in social infrastructure supported by fair taxation. The Quebec experience has shown that spending on publicly delivered, affordable, quality child care provides big returns: increased female labour force participation, higher tax revenues and consumer spending and more jobs for women. In New Brunswick, bringing home support services and group homes under public management would offer other opportunities to improve the quality of services and the situation of the predominantly female workforce in the community services sector.
Implementation of effective pay equity legislation for the private as well as the public sector would also encourage women’s economic autonomy. Ensuring that women receive equal pay for work of equal value would also generate more government tax revenue and reduce costs for programs like social assistance. A 2004 study estimated that eliminating wage discrimination would raise $226 million in additional tax revenues alone for the New Brunswick government.
Now, more than ever, men and women in New Brunswick must stand together and fight for our vision of a society where there is equality and justice for all.
Come out and participate in the IWD events organized across New Brunswick:
Woodstock, March 6, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. International Women’s Day Free Lunch and Celebrations – Oxford Auditorium, 875 Nellis St. Free chili lunch, singing, interactive activities, dancing, presentations, drumming, demonstrations, and artisan market. Organized by a coalition of individuals and agencies committed to positive change in the community.
Fredericton, March 6, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Open House to celebrate IWD at the Women’s Equality Office, 551 King St., Suite A. Refreshments served. Come meet staff, learn about the Branch publications & programs, & celebrate the day!
Moncton, March 8, 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nothing can stop us! : Women in the Workplace. Centre culturel Aberdeen, 140 Botsford St. Panel on women’s issues in the workplace, with Cathy Rogers, Minister of Social Development, Jodi Dallaire, Rosella Melanson, Anne Hébert & Vallie Stearns. A snack will be provided. Tickets on sale until March 5 – Regular 15$; Student 10$, at Read’s, 347 Mountain Road or 985 Main St. An initiative of the Coalition for Pay Equity and the Regroupement féministe du NB, in collaboration with Moncton & District Labour Council, PSAC/AFPC, CFUW, CAFI, YWCA, Support to Single Parents/Support aux parents uniques, Réseau des femmes d’affaires francophones du Canada, Conseil économique du NB inc. and the City of Moncton.
Sussex, March 8, 1:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. “Making it Happen” IWD Afternoon Social. Park Place, 38 Park St., Unit 2. A celebration of women “Making It Happen” – an afternoon of local business women, performers, drumming coming together to tell their stories. Organized by the Sussex Committee for the Prevention of Family Violence. For more information phone: 506-433-6579.
Fredericton, March 12, 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., International Women`s Day – Bread & Roses with the Alex Bailey Swing Band. York Street Train Station, 380 York St. Come celebrate IWD by dancing to the Alex Bailey Swing Band and supporting the NB Coalition for Pay Equity. Hear from workers struggling for pay equity and Fredericton feminists who are celebrating a year of activism and achievements. Tickets are $10, on sale at Westminster Books or at the door. All proceeds raised will support the work of the NB Coalition for Pay Equity. This event is supported by Reproductive Justice New Brunswick – RJNB, Fredericton Youth Feminists, Fredericton & District Labour Council, Fredericton Voice of Women for Peace, STU Women’s Studies & Gender Studies, the Faculty Association of the University of St. Thomas (FAUST) and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shippagan, March 12, 5:30 p.m. start. Celebration Supper to mark IWD (French event). Cafeteria at the Shippigan campus of the Université de Moncton (UMCS). The evening will include speakers from diverse backgrounds on interesting topics, a meal and draws. Tickets are $12 ($8 for students), on sale at the Librairie Pélagie in Shippagan and from members of the Cercle des femmes acadiennes et francophones de Shippagan and at the UMCS. Organized by the Cercle des femmes acadiennes et francophones de Shippagan and the Comité de la situation feminine de l’UMCS. Information: Majella Gionet (Cercle FAFS), phone: 336-8861 or Lise Brideau (Comité de l’UMCS), phone: 336-3400, extension 3406.
Grand Falls, March 14, 2:00 p.m. start. La Société culturelle régionale Les Chutes invites all women from the region to celebrate IWD (French event). For information and to purchase tickets, please call the office of the Société culturelle régionale Les Chutes, at 473-4329 or email: email@example.com. Office hours are Monday – Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., at 215 Guimont St., Grand Falls.