Today, on International Women’s Day, I’ve been reminded of how grateful I should be. Maybe it’s because I’ve been flipping through images of women’s protests around the world. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching sentimental videos that make me feel inspired (even if they are marketing ploys by Google). Either way, I can’t help but feel grateful.
By the time this post goes up around midnight tonight, it will no longer be International Women’s Day. Before then, I’d like to take a moment to be thankful, and highlight ways we can support other women in their fight to win these privileges too.
1. Freedom and Safety
When I get up in the morning, I do not feel afraid. My country is not at war. My physical safety is not threatened. Throughout history, this was not something most women could take for granted. In many countries around the world this is still something women cannot take for granted.
There are many organizations working to ensure women’s safety. There are a variety of organizations that are working to help women (and men and children) from areas like Syria that have been affected by war. Unfortunately, in unstable situations like these, rape and sexual violence become weapons of war. The Stop Rape Now website highlights a variety of organizations that work with victims of sexual assault and promote rape prevention education.
2. Access to Education
Not only did I get to go to elementary and high school without encountering any reason to drop out, I also had the privilege of attending University. As Malala Yousafzai reminded us after her attempted assassination in 2012, this is a privilege many women are still denied.
— Malala Fund (@MalalaFund) December 10, 2014
While the Malala Fund itself works to “enable girls to complete 12 years of safe, quality education so that they can achieve their potential and be positive change-makers in their families and communities”, there are many other organizations that also work to ensure women are not denied an education because of their gender.
3. Career Opportunities
I’ve rarely struggled to find a job. Through a variety of happy connections I’ve been lucky enough to be employed almost my entire adult life. Not only have I been able to find a job, I’ve had a variety of career opportunities open to me. In contrast, throughout much of history women were only allowed to work as domestic servants or sex workers. While even now in Canada women still tend to earn less, work less hours, and often miss out on upper management positions, our options are considerably more hopeful than they were even a few decades ago.
There’s a variety of ways to invest in women’s careers. You could start by challenging the cultural norms that prevent women from succeeding in their careers. You could also invest in microloan organizations like Kiva, or other more female focused organizations. Or you could seek out an organization like the women’s vocational school I was lucky enough to visit in Niger, where young girls are given the tools to open their own tailoring business.
4. Supportive Family and Friends
I’ve certainly experienced discouraging criticisms from time to time, but for the most part I’ve been surrounded with loved ones who wanted to see me succeed. More than anything, I was so lucky to end up with a spouse who encourages me to pursue my aspirations.
Unfortunately, a lot of women have not experienced this kind of support in their lives. Domestic violence continues to plague communities everywhere. In Canada, “half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16”. There are many amazing organizations that provide support to women who have experienced domestic violence, but a big part of challenging abuse also involves changing our perspectives on manhood and violence.
5. Amazing Role Models
I am so lucky to live in a time where bad-ass, capable, and intelligent women are everywhere I look.
Whether I’m reading through the #WomenYouShouldHaveHeardOf slides on Facebook, watching Hilary Clinton campaign for President of the U.S.A., or listening to a lecture from one of my many amazing female professors, I’m regularly reminded of the kind of opportunities available to someone like me.
The thing is, I’m an able-bodied, cis-gender, white, middle-class, Canadian woman. I’m so, so lucky to have had the many privileges I shared with you above. They are privileges that women like me lacked throughout much of history and that many women today still lack. But this Women’s Day, I don’t want them to just end with me. I’d like to share a little bit of the hope I’ve been given. Even if, for now, it only means making a small donation to an organization I believe in.