When we look around us, we see women everywhere. In our homes, we see our mothers, sisters, wives, and grandmothers. At work, we see female co-workers. In life, we see female friends, acquaintances, and community members. On March 8th, women everywhere are being given an amplified voice to celebrate a global day of recognition celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and girls, and raising awareness of the work left to be done. United Way supports girls and women in all walks and stages of life providing opportunities to thrive.

International Women’s Day (IWD) began in 1908 when a group of over 15,000 women came together in New York to protest for shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights. At this time advocating for women’s suffrage was an uncommon practice and this was the first step towards the progress we see today. Although we still have more steps to take to achieve full gender equality, IWD helps us not only look forward to a better future, but also acknowledge the sacrifices and successes of those before us. It is a day to honour and celebrate all women.

Today, women’s rights are placed in the spotlight every day reminding those around us that respect, dignity and solidarity are important values to exhibit not only on IWD, but every day.

Around the world, 87,000 women are killed each day just because they are women; 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men; and 49 countries do not have specific laws against domestic violence.

We are privileged in Canada to have laws and regulations in place to keep women safe from harm. Although we as Canadians continue to challenge social norms, promote equal rights and celebrate the successes of women – many countries are still lacking basic women’s rights. We have seen the impact that social media can make over the past year – we must use these platforms and all the resources at our disposal to advocate for change in our communities, our country, and all around the world.

Today we encourage you to ‘Choose to Challenge’ and call out gender bias and inequities. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge. We are encouraging everyone to use the hashtag #ChooseToChallenge on social media today which is this year’s International Women’s Day theme.

The last year has brought on several unique obstacles, COVID-19 has changed the world in several ways including social norms. The United Nations has asked women everywhere to ask themselves how they can challenge social norms and promote social change despite the circumstances of the pandemic. Challenges faced by women include, but are not limited to; equity for women in sport, building inclusive workplaces, improved woman empowerment around the world, women’s education regarding their own health and health-related choices, and increasing visibility for women’s creativity.

Women’s issues won’t be solved overnight and can’t be solved by just one person. However, one person can make a difference by doing small acts each day and encouraging those around to take part. A great and easy way to make a difference supporting women in 2021 is to learn about one global equity issue, period poverty.

Period poverty is defined as being unable to access appropriate sanitary products and having a poor knowledge of menstruation often due to financial constraints. Period products are a basic necessity, not a luxury, and every woman should have the right to adequate access to the products they need.

Nearly a quarter of Canadian women and a third of those under 25 have reportedly struggled to afford menstrual products for themselves or their dependents. This is unacceptable.