Why does women’s equality still matter? That is the question that will be pondered over a special breakfast hosted by Jack Layton and Irene Mathyssen of the National Democratic Party that will feature journalist, Heather Mallick, Ellen Gabriel, head of the Quebec Native Women’s Association an Sarah Ghabrial of the Miss G_Project. The March 1st breakfast is to kick of a week of festivities throughout the world leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8th.
With the massive multi-million dollar funding cuts that the Conservative Party made to the Status of Women last fall, practically stripping them of any means of legal advocacy, events like International Women’s Day are more important than ever, according to London Fanshare Member of Parliament Irene Mathyssen. Mathyssen is also the NDP Critic for the Status of Women and the Critic for Housing in Parliament. She has been on the case of Bev Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women since Oda was appointed in that she defends the cuts the Conservatives have made and somehow manages to claim that women have actually achieved equality even though nationally, women still make 30% less than men for the same work.
According to Mathyssen, women’s equality still matters because, “we know in community after community, particularly in rural and remote communities that women are still isolated. They still face problems with violence; each year 100 women die at the hands of the men who are supposed to love them. There is still no national child care strategy, I don’t care what they call this debacle of $100.00 a month, it is not a national child care strategy, it is not affordable, it does not create spaces and its not regulated, it doesn’t make our children safe.”
She also believes that under the Conservatives, Canada’s First Nation’s people are “utterly forgotten!” As it stands, not having a national housing strategy already disables women from leaving their abusers as the vast majority would rather not subject their children to the abject poverty that can come from leaving their homes. With the housing crises that some reserves are already facing, the problems with domestic violence are intensified, as there is nowhere to go for some women to go. Says Mathyssen, “more than twice the national average of aboriginal women are sexually assaulted, more than twice the national average of women in than the general population, aboriginal women are the victims of violence and crime. It’s very clear that there is this racialized reality to their situation and to the poverty that they face.”
The theme to this year’s International Women’s Day is Ending Violence Against Women: Action for Real Results and says Mathyssen, “I think that it is exactly the right theme for this year’s International Women’s Day.” Since the Conservatives put women on the chopping block last fall, many have taken action in protest, written letters, contacted their MPs and so much more. Says Mathyssen, “I think that this government underestimated the women of this country when they started dismantling the support system that women have built by virtue of their advocacy and women are fighting back and they are taking action, they are not content to be quiet and wait this out.” Since the Conservatives have been in charge, says Mathyssen, “very little has been achieved other than to endanger the very people that they pledged to protect.