Women’s Day rally calls for equity, collaboration, staying course to advance opportunities

GUELPH – Women accomplished a lot of firsts in 2022, but there’s still a long way to go to achieve equality and equity for women, said Cindy McMann at an event in Guelph’s Market Square to mark International Women’s Day.

McMann is the public educator for Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis, which organized the rally and march outside Guelph’s city hall on March 8.

Among the firsts for women:

  • Jessica Watkins became the first Black woman to serve aboard the International Space Station;
  • Preet Chandi became the first woman of color to explore the South Pole solo;
  • MJ Rodriguez became the first trans woman to win a Golden Globe; and
  • Claudine Gay became the first Black president of Harvard University.

“There is even talk right now that women astronauts will soon have their first ever space suits that are designed for women,” McMann joked.

Women are still badly represented in positions of power, however.

Men make up about 95% of CEOs of Canadian TSX listed companies.

Women in Canada are still paid 89 cents to every dollar a man makes, and more than half of single mothers and half of women over 65 who live alone, live below the poverty line, McMann said.

“According to 2022 research, there are more CEOs named Mark than there are women CEOs in Canada,” she said.

Sundes Alammi is president of the Arab Women’s Society of Guelph.

She told the crowd that when women are denied the same opportunities as men, “we are closing out the potential contribution that they could make.” 

Pursuing equity means equal access to education for women, equal access to health care, and equal access to jobs.

“It also means acknowledging and addressing the unique challenges that women face, such as gender-based violence, sexual harassment and the gender pay gap,” said Alammi.

“We cannot simply ignore these issues and hope that they will go away.”

Fawzia Khan is founder of the Guelph-based group Women that Give, a women-led volunteer charity run by female– entrepreneurs and professionals.

“We have a mandate to provide free programs and support services to women survivors of gender-based violence, women in need, women facing hardships, struggling with poverty, disadvantaged children and other marginalized members in our communities,” Khan said 

While many women have advanced socially and economically, “we still need to think about the women who are not there yet,” she said.

Ashley Burr is a runner who organized the Secret 3k Run, an event to honour and show support for women in Afghanistan who are not allowed an education, to run, to go to parks or to demonstrate independence in any way.

Funds raised through the run in Guelph, which was held the evening of March 8, go to charities that provide information and education to women in Afghanistan through the internet.

Guelph councillor Dominique O’Rourke said while there may be a women-heavy council this year, with eight female councillors to four males and one male mayor, that’s a unique situation in Guelph.

“Embracing equity is not a community roll call of numbers or sectors, right,” she said.

“It’s about how we all use our roles at home, at work and in the community to foster inclusion, equity and to increase opportunities for all women.”

O’Rourke added, “We’re seeing horrifying attacks on the rights of women, girls and trans people in North America and all over the world.

“We can’t take any of our gains for granted. And we need to be very vigilant to protect our rights.”

About 50 attendees – both men and women – then marched through downtown Guelph carrying signs and chanting slogans of peace and equality.

The event wrapped up with a group Zumba class back in Market Square.