Only by actively and purposefully championing a future of gender equality can we cultivate a world deserving of our hopes and dreams. In light of this International Women’s Day, I challenge you to do eight things that can create this space in your everyday life.
1. Don’t ask if International Women’s Day is necessary.
This question is usually followed with thoughts on how women’s rights have already been achieved. I feel that asking this is the single greatest barrier to progress on gender equality. How can we begin to do the hard work of dismantling a patriarchal society with deep systemic sexism and misogyny when we are wilfully blind to the problems at hand?
2. Stop thinking that International Women’s Day is only for women.
This day is to reflect on the progress championed by leaders across the gender diversity spectrum, and is a call to all global citizens to carry the torch of gender equality forward. Consider this, the Raptors did not win the NBA title with half the team standing around twiddling their thumbs.
Just like each player did their part, we must collectively do ours. This starts by recognizing the gender equality movement includes a fight for the rights of non-binary, gender non-conforming and LGBTQ+ communities too. It also means practising call in culture, instead of call out.
3. Remember that intersectionality matters.
I love the word intersectionality because without this powerful lens on gender, the women’s rights movement returns to exclusively serving only certain women — namely the most privileged. There are infinite permutations of intersections — like race, class and geography — and each shapes our lives significantly. Any gender equality conversation must reflect this diversity.
4. Champion rights in the real world, not reel world.
Too often, too many of us fall into the trap of popping a filter on Snapchat or joining in on a trending hashtag to celebrate International Women’s Day.
While social media has led to the global connectivity of the women’s rights movement, it is equally important that you reflect inward. Think critically about what you can change in your real life and in the lives of those around you. That change will go a long way and is often more impactful than any amount of likes.
5. Educate yourself so you can educate others.
Gender inequality means 132 million girls are not in school, which manifests in having only 21 female heads of state worldwide. Gender inequality means one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse within their lifetime. Pick a topic, research it well and help educate your community on it. Progress is achieved issue by issue, and if the 25,000 plus students at the University of Saskatchewan do our part, we can help change these horrifying realities.
6. Cheer on women.
You can do this every day in many ways. Celebrate them on the sports field, behind the camera or as lead characters. Cheer on those who run for political office and strive to fill leadership roles.
7. Become a mentor.
Our unique life experiences allow all of us to offer meaningful insight about life. We can empower females and young girls to take risks and believe in the potential of their dreams.
On a personal note, I cannot tell you how much it means to me when I meet women pursuing their ambitions and intellectual curiosity, and have them encourage me to do the same. You could be that spark to someone’s journey, too.
8. Acknowledge women as leaders, geniuses and creatives.
From Maud Menton, a Canadian biomedical researcher who co-developed the
Michaelis–Menten equation to Greta Thunberg, who led the mobilization of thousands worldwide against climate change. From Sakshi Malik, Indian’s first female wrestler to win an Olympic medal, to Viola Desmond, a Canadian civil rights activist. Women are shapers and movers, leaving legacies of work that still touch our lives today. My fellow sisters, we have always been powerful — it’s time the rest of society catches up to this reality.
We can create an equal world if we believe in it and are willing to work for it. I know I am, are you?
This op-ed was written by a University of Saskatchewan undergraduate student and reflects the views and opinions of the writer. If you would like to write a rebuttal, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graphic: Shawna Langer | Graphics Editor