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Time for Canada to declare International Women's Day official holiday

March 8 is creeping nearer, and with that comes International Women’s Day. All over the world, women and their friends will celebrate this amazing day (you can find information on Vancouver's festivities, here). Where would you like to be, and how would you like to celebrate this powerful event?

First of all, do you know the origins of International Women’s Day? Did you know that while IWD is an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia, it is not yet in Canada?

If you didn't, here is a very brief synopsis of its herstory:

In the early 1900’s, women began banding together to challenge widespread gender equality and, using their strength and collective voice, commenced their campaign for a better world.

On March 8, 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. Emerging from this action, the US, from 1909 to 1913, celebrated a National Women’s Day on the last Sunday of every month.

In 1910, the second International Conference of Working Women was
held in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was here where Clara Zetkin, (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany), called for an International Women's Day, a proposal that was enthusiastically accepted by the women attending from 17 countries. The next year saw International Women’s Day, or IWD as it is often called, honored all over the world, with
March 8 eventually becoming the official day of celebration.

The anthem of International Women’s Day, “Bread and Roses”,
was written to commemorate March 25. Titled New York City’s 'Triangle Fire', this disaster took the lives of 146 garment workers, all of whom were women.

On March 8, 2012, hundreds of women will be in New York to attend the 56th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW56). This year, the convention will focus on the empowerment of rural women, who constitute a quarter of the world’s population. Attendees will meet with government officials, rural women, and representatives of the United Nations, as well as media makers and members of the private sector, to “review progress, [and] share experiences and good practices.” It is here that they will “analyze gaps and challenges, and agree on priority actions to accelerate the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the achievement of gender equality”.

Shannon Joseph, women’s group member and Policy Advisor from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, is one of five Canadian delegates who will make their way to New York next week. You can follow her tweets at #shannonAJ1 or watch live web cast coverage on the official CSW website

If you really want to have fun, visit the International Women’s Day page and
look at what women across the world are accomplishing in their cities or rural areas. If you have information about an event, you can add it to the 152 celebrations that Canada has so far listed on the site, many of which are occurring in Vancouver and surrounding areas.

For instance, on March 2, women’s activist and journalist Judy Rebick will be speaking at Fraser View Hall, just prior to the great South Asian feast at 6 PM.

Additionally, the City of Vancouver Council and Park Board invite you to join them on March 8th, from 6-8pm, as they celebrate local women in the arts – an event that is part of the Remarkable Women Series at Creekside Community Centre. Additionally, Vancity Theatre is presenting the 7th Annual Women in Film Festival from March 8-11, which will showcase the talents of many female filmmakers.

The Simon Fraser University Women’s Centre will also host a range of events, spanning over 8 days. With celebrations taking place at all three campuses (Vancouver, Burnaby, and Surrey), there promises to be something for everyone.

I think these ones will be especially powerful:

Veiled Panic: Muslim Women, Canadian-ness and You (March 7, 1-3:30pm, SFU Burnaby MBC 2296)

What are we learning about Muslim women and their communities from discussion in the media? Workshop facilitated by Itrath Syed. In conjunction with SFPIRG –  register at [email protected].


From the right-to-choose to reproductive justice: Past, present and future
. (March 9, 7-9pm, Harbour Centre RM 1800)

Three activists discuss the fight to decriminalize choice, as well as the current state of pro-choice activism at National and campus levels.

Feel like celebrating in a more hands on environment? Check out Amnesty International’s International Women’s Day Flash Mob. Taking place at 11:55am sharp, on the front lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery, all those wearing purple will be given a newspaper filled with information on women’s rights, in order to emphasize the lack of such in mainstream media.

I know that there are many other events going on across Metro Vancouver, and I hope those will soon be posted on the website. Make sure to take the time on March 8 to celebrate and honor women who have fought for gender equality all across the world. Let’s also call on Prime Minister Harper to declare International Women’s Day an official holiday in Canada.

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