Choosing to stand up and be bold for change Solidarity is a choice on International Women’s Day

The wave of political populism currently sweeping the West is increasingly beckoning a response, especially when moral values are challenged.

Though many struggle with appropriate responses, solidarity has proven to be an accessible and powerful one. Solidarity refuses to normalize actions with which we disagree and generates momentum behind a cause.

On Jan. 21, thousands gathered at the Alberta Legislature on a frosty Saturday afternoon as an offshoot of the Women’s March on Washington taking place the day after President Trump was sworn into office.

The march in Edmonton, along with others across the world, was in protest of a blatant disregard for women’s rights and other minority rights that many fear will only continue under the current American administration. Ten marches were planned in Canada alone.

Men and women at marches across the globe rallied in the spirit of equality and inclusivity in cities like London, Berlin, Sydney, Paris, Nairobi, and Cape Town. Those attending gathered as a reminder that the rights and freedoms we hold must not be taken for granted. Men and women stood in solidarity with those striving for equality around the world.

Over a century ago, Canadian women marched for equality, voting, and labour rights. Since then, women’s rights throughout the world have undoubtedly improved in many areas. But this is not to say that the work is over. The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap will not close entirely around the world until 2186. We can strive for better.

The marches demonstrated support for women in America and across the world. We stand with women in India fighting the high incidence of sexual violence, with women in Russia facing a new law decriminalizing domestic abuse. We stand with women in Saudi Arabia who voted in elections for the first time ever in 2015, and with young girls in the U.S. watching disrespect of women on television.

Whether these examples represent a leap forward toward equality or a step back, they all warrant solidarity and support. The only difference is when regression occurs, action must be taken. Positive progress should be celebrated and rigidity or regression must be actively challenged.

March 8 is International Women’s Day and given the current socio-political environment, what more reason is there to show your support?

In the past, this day has served as a catalyst for positive change and reminds each of us that we all have power to act boldly and pragmatically for equality. Solidarity is an active decision to move forward and continue striving for gender parity in all areas of society both abroad and at home, where there are still patterns to be challenged.

In Canada, the glass ceiling of equal pay remains unshattered. As reported by The Globe and Mail, women take home 73 cents for every dollar earned by men, even when a woman’s education level is higher than their male counterparts. The article adds that while women make up 48 per cent of the Canadian workforce, less than half a percent of them hold senior management positions.

Canadians cannot help but be influenced by what happens in the U.S. The nationalistic protectionism that has settled there has the potential to influence the political climate here as we already see with certain emerging candidates. This ripple effect is seen throughout the world, spreading even faster with increased access to information online and subsequently impacting perspectives globally.

We can support several goals to reach gender equality. Some of those highlighted under the United Nations sustainable development goals include: striving for equal education access, ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health services, raising aspirations for young girls, empowering mothers, getting women into leadership positions, and stopping violence and sexual harassment.

With such strong international ties within Canada, we know the struggle for equality around the world on a personal level. This year, in the spirit of International Women’s Day, #beboldforchange and act with courage together with the women of the world to strive for global equality.

Header Image: The Edmonton march saw roughly 2,000 participants at the Alberta Legislature. | Hank Vlietstra

Sierra Bilton

Sierra is a Communications student specializing in Journalism at MacEwan University. She has a particular love of the art and culture found nestled in Edmonton's Alberta Avenue communities and beyond.

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