FIQ (Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec)

World March of Women: No, equality has not been achieved!

In 2010, in more than 70 countries throughout the world, thousands of women are participating in the third international action of the World March of Women. They want to see a setback in poverty and violence through their interventions and to progress in their struggles for a fair and egalitarian world. From October 12 to 17, women and men from all corners of Quebec are joining together in this large-scale movement in order for the government to meet their demands.

Over the last decades, it is true that significant gains were won. These included maternity and paternity leaves, $7 a day daycares, salary equity and the resources now available for women who are victims of violence. These victories were obtained thanks to the fierce battles waged by women in their workplaces and in their lives.

However, even if we try to make ourselves believe that equality has been achieved and that women no longer suffer discrimination, reality is not that rosy: there is still much to do!

First and foremost, the battle must be continued on the economic independence front because today, the income of women still only equals 70% of that of men. Women also occupy more atypical and precarious jobs that are not unionized and have no pension plan.  By the same token, they are poorer once they retire, having not contributed as much as men to social protection plans, such as the Quebec Pension Plan. Women hold the majority (60%) of minimum wage jobs, while they only represent 46% of the labour force. So, the income of a person who works 40 hours a week at minimum wage is 11% below the low income line for a single person before taxes. However, economic independence is one of the keys for access to equality for women.

Also, public services, which have enabled women to progressively enter the job market, are seriously threatened today by privatization and the disengagement of the Government. The poorest in society are the most affected, particularly women, because they are often the first ones to get help from the Government, often at the expense of their job, in order to take care of their sick children or parents going through a loss of autonomy. The fight against privatization and to defend public services is important, because public services are another essential key in achieving equality for women.

There is still a lot to do regarding violence towards women, because their bodies continue to be used sometimes as a sexual object, sometimes as spoils of war, when they are not raped and shamefully mutilated. It must also be remembered that the right to choose to continue a pregnancy or not is regularly brought into question and that, each year women still die following abortions performed in unhealthy conditions.

When I think about the situation of the majority of women today, it is clear that equality has still not been achieved. Therefore, it is important to roll up our sleeves and to fight for the economic independence fof women, for the defence of the common good and for access to resources in order to end the violence that women suffer and to build a world of peace, a more just world. The 2010 World March of Women is an important milestone in women’s battle for equality.