This International Women’s Day, some advocates are working to make sure marginalized women are recognized in their celebrations. International Women’s Day occurs on March 8th every year. The day is meant to celebrate the achievements of women, but also spread awareness and fight for an end to gender inequality.
Lynn Cote, an Anishinaabe women of the Cote First Nation, is an assistant professor at the First Nations University of Canada. For Cote, the celebration is something she views through the lens of her Indigenous identity.
“The way we were raised, women were honoured daily,” said Cote. “We were taught to honour women every day, not just one day. Women are the backbone of the family. If it weren’t for women there wouldn’t be people.”
Ever since childhood, Cote has felt a special connection to the other women in her life.
“I didn’t have a mother growing up, so for me, women were always special to me,” said Cote. “Because I didn’t have that connection with my own mother, every time I work with women, they become close to me.”
While part of International Women’s Day is about celebrating achievements of women, the day strives to bring awareness to the inequality that still remains for women. Across social media, different groups have begun advocating for more awareness centered around women’s voices that often are left out of the discussion.
Mwila Munganama, the co-director for the Champions of Change club at the University of Regina, is also a proud Black women. Munganama said for young women, the day can be a moment of reflection.
“For young women, it presents an opportunity to look back, and go ‘wow this is the power of women’, said Munganama. “It allows us to be empowered by women that came before us and to start laying our own groundwork. It gives us an opportunity to look at what we can do for others, with the inspiration from what other women have done for us.”
As a Black woman, Munganama urges women to keep fighting for gender equality, because it does make a difference.
“You may not live to see the efforts of your hard work but know that those efforts are recognized and appreciated,” said Munganama. “Every ounce of work, blood, sweat and tears that you put into making the world a better place is seen and appreciated. You are laying the groundwork for other little girls out there, and that is really incredible.”
Munganama said that while International Women’s Day is a great initiative for all women, the voices and stories of minority women are still not given the same attention as some other voices.
“Minority women have been left out of the discussion on International Women’s Day,” said Munganama. “We haven’t always seen the intersectionality in our discussion of women. But I think we are working towards finding more differences in the people we celebrate. Making sure their message is being heard and celebrated.”
Cote believes that International Women’s Day is an important yearly moment to advocate for gender equality.
“International Women’s Day can act as a launching point. As minority women, we all face the same challenges. If we can figure out ways to attack these challenges together, we can become equal members of society.”