March 8, 2014 8:54 pm

International Women’s Day aims to change the status quo

EDMONTON – International Women’s Day — a day held to recognize and celebrate women’s advancement and equality across the globe — was marked with a number of celebrations across Edmonton Saturday.

“This is a day where we have a chance to come together and hear from each other… and draw strength and inspiration from each other’s struggles,” said Merryn Edwards, an organizer of the Women’s Day march down Whyte Avenue.

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The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Inspiring Change.’ It’s meant to challenge the status quo by encouraging advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way.

“It’s an opportunity,” said NDP House Leader Rachel Notley, “to remind people to think about what we need to do throughout the rest of the year to promote and grow the rights of women in the world and also in Alberta.”

While strides for women’s rights and equality have been made over the years, Notley believes efforts should never let up; there’s always more that can and should be done.

“Quite honestly, I think that we have also backslid somewhat. In Alberta alone, the gap between women and men is actually growing, it’s going in the opposite direction. And we have the largest wage gap in the country in this province and we’ve slipped back to sort of 1990, 1980 levels.”

READ MORE: Hillary Clinton says equality for women is world’s ‘great unfinished business’

In Edmonton, there is currently only one woman sitting on city council. Bev Esslinger took part in a Women’s Day celebration Friday afternoon, to announce the formation of the Edmonton Women’s Initiative. Its intent is to focus on three areas: engagement through networking, leadership through mentorship, and learning from best practices used in other municipalities.

“I want Edmonton women to stand up and play a part in building the future of Edmonton,” said Esslinger. “Wherever you are — in academia, in the workforce, your school, on a sports field, or running your own business — you have a wealth of knowledge and experience.”

“Women provide a unique voice,” added Mayor Don Iveson. “And without that, we cannot continue to evolve as a forward-thinking and global city.

“I’m certainly committed to making sure that we have women’s voices heard at city hall and that barriers are being removed to their participation in political processes.”

Earlier this year, city council created Edmonton’s first women’s advisory committee. The Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton (WAVE) was formed to bring female community leaders together to help advance the work of the Edmonton Women’s Initiative.

The city says its goal is to ensure women’s rights, issues, and opinions are fairly and equally represented from every social, cultural and physical background.

For more information on the Edmonton Women’s Initiative, or to apply to become a member of WAVE, visit the City of Edmonton’s website.

With files from Shannon Greer, Global News.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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