October is Women’s History Month, which includes the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11 and Persons Day on October 18. This month is dedicated to championing the rights of women and girls around the world, including freedom from violence and abuse as well as equal opportunities in areas such as law, education, nutrition and health care.
This month also marks a pivotal moment in Canadian history when in 1929, the legal definition of “persons” was changed to include women. It signaled a turning point in the quest for equal rights in Canada, with a ruling that Canadian women were “persons” with a right to vote. In addition, this paved the way for the increased participation of women in public and political life.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed glaring gender inequity in our society. Women, particularly Black and Indigenous women, have been most affected by the social and economic ripples of the pandemic.
More women than men have lost jobs and many have the added emotional and physical toll of being caregivers of both children and the elderly. With virtual schooling and closed daycare centres, women have shouldered the bulk of domestic responsibilities which have led many to reduce their work hours, forgo career advancements, or quit their jobs altogether. Time out of work affects lifetime earnings and this leads to a perpetual cycle of income inequalities and gender wage gaps. In 2021, women still make 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
Gender-based violence has also increased during COVID-19, and women continue to be the most vulnerable targets.
However, all is not lost. This year’s theme for Women’s History Month is “Women Making History Now.” It is in honour of the courageous women and girls who have made a lasting impression as leaders in their fields. Now more than ever before, employers are reviewing practices in areas such as hiring and promoting staff to try to create greater fairness, particularly for Black and Indigenous women.
In OPSEU/SEFPO, women make up more than half of the entire membership. We recognize and value the role women play in the solidarity of our Union as leaders, advocates, and workers. During this pandemic, they have been on the frontlines providing the much-needed professional expertise and services in their various workplaces. Their contributions to the solidarity and strength of our Union is invaluable.
We dedicate Women’s History Month in their honour.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer , OPSEU/SEFPO
Chair, OPSEU/SEFPO Provincial Women’s Committee (PWC)