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“The Canadian government’s theme for 2022 IWD is Women Inspiring Women. The more accurate theme would be Women Inspiring Governments to Take Action on Issues Affecting Canadian Women.” — President Larry Brown
Ottawa (03 March 2022) — The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), along with its 400,000 members, marks International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 by recognizing the contributions of women and gender-diverse people and recommitting to the pursuit of gender equity and justice. IWD was officially recognized by the United Nations in 1977 with its roots going back to the labour movement and social justice organizing in North America and Europe.
This year we are highlighting the value of care work and the need to ensure women's voices are part of our economic recovery, which includes tackling climate change.
Women’s contributions in providing unpaid care
As we celebrate the contributions of women on this 2022 IWD, it is important to mark the contributions of women in Canada in providing unpaid care. Nearly all people require care at some point in their lifetime and quite often this support for health and well-being is provided by women — and is mostly unpaid labour.
Because this is often done in addition to paid work, it is referred to as the “second shift.” The effects of this “second shift” can often affect women’s ability to maintain full employment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many women were forced to reduce their hours, or to leave their jobs altogether, to provide child and elder care which was extremely limited as childcare centres and community supports were forced to close. This obviously effects women’s economic future as well as their physical and mental well-being.
It is also important to recognize that providing care is not limited to child care and elder care. Many women are providing care for family members or friends that are dealing with mental health or addiction challenges, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. They are also supporting loved ones with disabilities, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and who have experienced interruptions to essential services and programs. Women are also supporting individuals fleeing violent relationships.
Governments need to recognize the value of care work
The pandemic magnified the fact that care work makes all other work possible. Workers in this sector are most often underpaid and have no benefits; in addition it is often precarious work. The vital support that these workers provide to our families, communities and the economy has not been recognized by any level of government, and therefore the sector has been severely underfunded. Governments must realize that care work is the foundation of the economy and consequently, must be adequately funded, supported, and respected.
Women’s voices critical in moving forward with the economic recovery
As we move forward into an economic recovery, decision-making processes and the resulting decisions must address the full scope of women’s reality and include women’s full participation. These decisions must realize that equal pay and equitable labour practices are non-negotiable, that gender-based violence is a public health issue, and that all public services must be accessible to all diverse groups and women with disabilities.
“The Canadian government’s theme for 2022 IWD is Women Inspiring Women. The more accurate theme would be Women Inspiring Governments to Take Action on Issues Affecting Canadian Women,” stressed President Brown.
Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow
Recognizing and investing in care work, and in women’s leadership, will be crucial to tackling climate change too. This year, the United Nations' theme for IWD is Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow. The theme recognizes the contribution of women and girls around the world, who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, to build a more sustainable future for all.
The climate crisis is a gendered one. NUPGE has written about how women, especially those who are BIPOC, living with disabilities, living in poverty, seniors, and migrants, disproportionately experience the negative effects of climate change — from economic insecurity, to health impacts, to gender-based violence. Women, especially Indigenous women and young women, are also at the forefront of movements for change.
As caregivers, women are also responding to the effects of climate change by caring for our most vulnerable, who are disproportionately affected by climate change. Investing in public and social services, including care, will be key to responding to the crisis.
Without action, the climate crisis threatens to reinforce existing inequalities, as we have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic. Today serves as an important reminder that we must all ensure that action on climate change accounts for these inequities and seeks to address them.
In advance of this year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW66), Global Unions issued a call to action on governments to enact a gender-transformative and inclusive Just Transition, with concrete recommendations for how to make this a reality (read the statement here).
“As we hopefully move towards the end of the pandemic, it is extremely important to remember that it is crucial that women’s voices are heard in the economic recovery from the pandemic as well as in the other global crisis of the increasing effects of climate change,” stated Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees.