International Women’s Day: We are not giving up!

Today is International Women’s Day! We have a lot to celebrate. Women have made tremendous gains since IWD was first celebrated in 1911.

We can vote – although we still have ridiculously low numbers of women elected to our political institutions.

Rape, even inside a marriage, is illegal – although in Canada, 50% of girls under the age of 16 have experienced some form of violence.

We can work outside the home – although we make 71 cents for every dollar a man makes (and that number is even lower for racialized and Aboriginal women.)

Okay, so clearly we still have a long way to go to achieve equality.

But we are doing it. And despite, the dreary statistics, there are millions of reasons to be optimistic. They walk through the doors of the YWCA every day.

Women and girls who are trying to change their lives turn to YWCA Toronto for support. We help women and girls achieve equality, economic independence and lives free of violence.

We offer a range of housing options, employment and training programs, community support programs, girls’ programs and family programs; we also engage in advocacy to address the systemic issues that undermine the lives of women and girls.

Many of the women and girls we work with have endured tremendous violence and trauma, as well as significant poverty. And still, most of them remain determined to heal and live full lives.

We try to give them the support to do just that. And what we have found is that when women and girls do have the right support, they can thrive.

So we are not giving up.

Today, in recognition of International Women’s Day, we recommit ourselves to the feminist activism we know has gotten us this far – and will get us to where we need to be.

Also in recognition of IWD, YWCA Toronto is announcing the recipients of the 2012 YWCA Women of Distinction.

These incredible women are doing great things to change the lives of women and girls. We give this award to acknowledge and celebrate these women, to bring attention to the issues affecting the lives of women and girls – and to inspire all of us to continue the struggle.

What are you doing?


Sarah Blackstock is the Director of Advocacy & Communications for YWCA Toronto.