I am ashamed to admit that I almost forgot that International Women’s Day is March 8 until I received an e-mail from Match, a Canadian organization dedicated to improving the lives of girls and women around the world.
No parent can afford to forget IWD or the struggles it represents, if we want equality for our girls and boys.
Not so long ago my mother was considered by law incapable of deciding whether a medical operation would be in the best interests of her children. In 1950’s Quebec, where I grew up, the law required the signature of my father, who while a lovely man, was not an involved dad and would have known far less than my mother, a former nurse, about any health concerns his kids might have had. It was not until 1964 that Quebec wives could conduct themselves independently in legal or financial matters without authorization from their husbands.
My mother was married under a regime known as “separate as to property”. That meant she had control over what she owned. But that was useless for a stay-at-home mom, who owned only the things she brought into the marriage: some silverware, dishes and bed sheets. She was totally dependent upon the good will of my father.
My mother once gave a speech at the local Toastmistress organization on how Quebec legislation discriminated against women. She came home fiercely angry when the male adjudicator gave her poor marks, which she was convinced were in retaliation to what she said. She raged against her status in the 1950’s before the 1960’s wave of feminism became the rage.
My grandmother’s situation was worse.
My grandfather worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway in Montreal, which provided pensions for its employees. He had the choice of receiving a larger pension which would terminate when he died or a smaller pension, some of which his wife, my grandmother, would continue to receive after his death. He chose to receive the larger amount, leaving my grandmother penniless when he died. My grandmother moved into my parent’s home where she lived for 20 years and so, like my mother, was dependent upon the good will of my father. Thankfully, my father was endowed with good will.
My grandmother, Margaret Milligan, at about age 25
I only learned how thoughtless my grandfather had been when my cousin revealed this family secret a few years ago. She told me her mother, my aunt, cried when she found out what had happened to my grandmother and begged her husband not to do the same to her. Sadly, my mother was too loyal to her father to tell me the truth.
While my situation has changed significantly from my mother’s and my daughters’ from mine, women still face discrimination at home and at work.
Statistics Canada reports that in 2010:
- women spent an average of 50.1 hours per week on child care, more than double the average time (24.4 hours) spent by men;
- full time working women spent 49.8 hours a week on child care compared to 27.2 hours spent by full time working men;
- women spent an average of 13.8 hours per week on household chores compared to 8.3 hours spent by men; and
- full time working women spent 13.9 hours on household chores compared to 8.6 hours spent by full time working men.
Labour Force statistics are not any better. Statistics Canada reported that in 2011:
- women earned on average, $32,100 compared to $48,100 earned by men;
- women working full time earned $47,300 compared to $65,700 earned by men working full-time;
- In 2009, women comprised 37.0% of those employed as managers. Women made up 37.4% of lower-level managers and 31.6% of senior managers.
Women and girls in living in developing economies face huge problems:
- 70 per cent of the one billion people living in extreme poverty are women and girls; and
- girls are three times more likely to be malnourished than boys.
Although women’s situation is far from perfect it has improved. International Women’s Day helps me to remember that and to give thanks to the many women who fought for women’s equality. It also reminds me there is still lots to be done, both at home and abroad.
I know it’s my responsibility, as a mother of two girls and one boy, to help with those battles, and so I will make a contribution to Match in the name of my children. It’s the least I can do to help secure a fairer world which will benefit both my daughters and my son.
Are you or your daughters facing discrimination? I would love to hear from you so please leave your comments in the Response Box Below.