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The World March of Women

Carolyn Egan

March 4, 2015

“We, women of the Quebec co-ordination of the World March of Women, issue a call to resist the social and environmental destruction currently taking place in Quebec and Canada. Between the lie of austerity and the promotion of an economy based on the exploitation of people and resources, governments are contributing to an all-out attack on women, social justice and the planet as a whole.
“We call for resistance against the governments of Quebec and Canada, which defends the interests of employers and claim they have no choice but to cut public spending to “balance the budget”, which is presented as the only possible road towards a prosperous Quebec. What kind of prosperity eliminates services, programs and jobs that provide women with greater freedom and space?”
These were the opening paragraphs of “A Call to Resist Social and Environmental Destruction” to initiate the World March of Women in Quebec and Canada in 2015. Thousands will march in Quebec joining hundreds of thousands worldwide.
In Toronto the organizing committee for the International Women’s Day rally and march met with women from the Quebec labour movement and the Federation Des Femmes Du Québec (FFQ). The meetings were very productive and solidarity is being built between English Canada and Quebec. We in Toronto are organizing with the themes “Our Bodies, Our Territories, Our Communities”. Other cities across Canada such as Vancouver are also taking up this focus and for the first time in decades a unified call will go out from women’s organizations and unions on international women’s day.
The World March of Women took place in 2000 and over 30,000 demonstrated in Ottawa. Trade unions and women`s groups including the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) which was later defunded by the Harper government organized across the country. Quebec had its own history and the FFQ has maintained connections with the international body. The World March of Women is now headquartered in Mozambique and is being led from women from the south.
Because there is no national organization of women in English Canada that international link has been lost as well as a coordinated approach to fighting for women and their demands. This was an orchestrated policy of the Harper government to weaken any fight back against its retrogressive policies. NAC was the victim of federal government cutbacks and it was hard to maintain a pan Canadian focus without it.
There is a clear anti-austerity politic in the World March of Women call out as the statement above outlines and there is also a call for women from Quebec and English Canada to work together against the neo-liberal agenda. Women, particularly racialized and indigenous women, feel the cuts to jobs and services very keenly. It is an agenda being fostered by governments across the globe and Canada is no different.
There is no alternative being offered by politicians and corporations who are driving and agenda that puts working people and the poor at the bottom. They are trying to maximize profits at all costs and are implementing cut backs to public sector jobs and services as well as attacking unions and driving down wages in the private sector.
Women and racialized communities have always faced discrimination and racism. Today we are seeing the rise of Islamophobia. The FFQ opposed the charter of values proposed by the Parti Quebecois when it was in power, standing with the Moslem community and others.
The gender wage gap continues as many studies have shown. Around 57 per cent of the working population in Toronto are immigrants, and according to the Toronto Census of the Metropolitan Area 73 per cent of the working poor are immigrants. Women have lost full time employment in many of the workplace closures and can only find precarious work. Women make up the majority of low wage workers. Two tiered wages are being implemented by employers in both private and public sector workplaces.
The World March of Women is taking on the destruction of the environment, the violence experienced by all women, particularly the systemic violence being experienced by indigenous women, the issues facing women in the workplace, women and war and the reality of the austerity agenda.
A rally and march will be taking place in Toronto on Saturday, March 7 celebrating International Women's Day in solidarity with the World March of Women. Trade unionists are meeting for a labour gathering before hand and will be joining with women from communities all across the city highlighting key demands and marching against the austerity agenda. Capitalism is wreaking havoc with our lives and every mass demonstration gives hope and confidence that we can win a better world together.
Join IWD Toronto, rally 11am at OISE, march 1pm to Ryerson

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