Monday, August 20, 2018

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StephenVance 540Thursday, March 8 is International Women's Day, a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women and to also raise awareness of the challenges that still remain in achieving true gender equality. As is highlighted in an article in this week's paper, in Meaford there's much to celebrate.

A little over a month ago I saw a post on social media that struck me as interesting.

Do you realize just how many of our downtown core businesses are owned by women?” the post asked, before listing some 25 local businesses that are owned and operated by women. Businesses that many of us frequent with regularity, and business owners who are our friends and neighbours.

While we might visit many of these businesses regularly, initially I was a little upset with myself that I had never realized just how many of our local businesses are owned by women – but then perhaps that's a sign of the equality that's been sought over the past century; gender doesn't play a role in how I (or most of us) view the businesses I frequent.

The long list of female-owned businesses in Meaford's urban core would seem to buck the national trend. According to Statistics Canada, 65 percent of small and medium-sized businesses in this country are owned and controlled by men while just 15 percent are majority owned by women (the remaining 20 percent are equally owned by men and women).

The first International Women's Day was observed in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. More than one million women and men showed their support by participating in public events. It wasn't until 1975 that the United Nations recognized 'International Women's Year' before annually celebrating International Women's Day on March 8.

Today, International Women's Day is celebrated around the world, and it has grown to become a global day of “recognition of women's achievements and a call to action to support women's rights and advance gender equality.”

In addition to the long list of local businesses owned by women in Meaford, our mayor is a woman, the recently departed municipal CAO was also a woman, as is the CEO of our library and the manager of Meaford Hall. Clearly in Meaford we're quite comfortable with electing or hiring women for important positions, and we gladly frequent businesses owned by women. But that doesn't mean that in our little corner of the world we've achieved true and full gender equality and there are no challenges ahead.

Women to this day still earn less than men for doing the same jobs as men. Women still experience harassment and manipulation by men in and out of the workplace, and they are still struggling to be believed when they report serious crimes like sexual assault.

Clearly there is still much work to be done if we are to reach a point when men and women are truly equal, and while it is frustrating that the process seems to be agonizingly lengthy, history has shown that change is slow and sometimes painful.

So while we observe International Women's Day, and we celebrate the achievements and contributions by women in our own community, it wouldn't hurt to remember that there are still challenges ahead, even in our apparent haven with successful and dedicated women here in Meaford.

To all the fine women in our community and beyond, happy International Women's Day, and my hope is that a day will come when the struggle has ended, and we're all considered to be and are treated as equals, as it should be. But you ladies can still have the babies – even if science found a way, we men aren't tough enough for that experience.


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