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The United Nations Association in Canada joins the world today in celebrating International Women’s Day, a holiday established to draw attention to the economic, political, social and cultural inequalities between women and men. The Socialist International first established this holiday at its 1910 meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark. On March 19th, 1911, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated with demonstrations and rallies in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. Thirty-four years later, at the San Francisco Conference, four women delegates helped establish what would become the largest intergovernmental organization ever, the United Nations. These founding women pushed for the inclusion of Article 8 in the Charter of the United Nations, i.e., for women’s equal opportunity to participate in the UN. Notable women within the U.N. system include Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (first female president of the General Assembly), Canada’s own Louise Frechette (the first Deputy Secretary-General), and the current President of the General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces.
On this International Women’s Day, gender equality is everywhere far from being a reality. According to leading organizations such as the UN, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum, in 2018, women on a global level earned 32 percent less than men, occupied only 24 percent of the available parliamentary seats internationally, and women constituted over two-thirds of the world’s illiterate people. Moreover, women were targeted at a pandemic scale as violence against women and girls affects 1 in 3 worldwide. In Canada, the 2018 picture is still bleak: according to the Government of Canada, women earned 23 percent less than men, behind their counterparts in Namibia, Rwanda, and Nicaragua, took up 26 percent of the parliamentary seats (which is below the global average) although they make up 50 percent of the population, and fell victim to 87 percent of all sexual assaults.
The United Nations Association in Canada works to promote the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the fifth being the establishment of gender equality by 2030. All Canadians can contribute in a multitude of ways to help achieve the fifth SDG. Informing yourself and others about gender inequalities, be they fundamentally societal and/or cultural which manifest economically and/or politically, is an easy first step. Moreover, know the rights of women and girls and stand up for them, as discriminating based on sex is prohibited in the Canadian Human Rights Act (1985). Vote in politicians who stand for gender equality in Canada and abroad. Finally, get involved. Volunteering for gender-focused NGOs can provide immediate help. Some organizations supporting women in Vancouver include the Women in Leadership Foundation, the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, the Pacific Immigrant Resources Society, and the Pacific Association of First Nations Women. Together we can bring about Planet 50:50!
About the Writer:
Dolores Cviticanin is a Volunteer Website Writer for the United Nations Association in Vancouver. Dolores holds two Bachelor degrees, one from Sciences Po Paris and another from the University of British Columbia. Her studies have focused on Political Science, History, and Philosophy. She has worked with UNICEF and an NGO providing free legal aid to migrants in Eastern Europe and has volunteered for numerous organizations on three continents. Currently, Dolores is a Programme Intern at the United Nations Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia in Istanbul, Turkey.