Approximately 100 women took to the streets of downtown Edmonton Sunday to bring attention to the continued fight for women’s rights.
Merryn Edwards, who is on the committee for the Edmonton IWD event, said women have strength in numbers when they stand up together.
“It’s inspired by collective action of women in defence of their rights as workers, in the anti-war movement, anti-poverty movement, national liberation movement,” she said.
“International Women’s Day has a very important history and it can be sort of a flashpoint for women who are standing up and pushing forward to have their rights respected.”
Edwards cites issues such as violence against women, missing and murdered Indigenous women and affordable childcare as areas where there is still much work to be done.
She said there has been a rise in resistance from women, particularly after the inauguration of Donald Trump.
The rally comes more than a month after Trump took office and after thousands of people participated in women’s marches across Canada and around the world.
“When we see these kinds of wholesale attacks on women’s rights and the kind of rhetoric that’s being advanced in the U.S., there’s a reaction, a pushback to say no, to stand up against that,” she said.
“When we are motivated to protect ourselves and our families and our community, that’s a very strong power. I think those mobilizations after Trump’s inauguration reminded us of that power we have when we stand up together.”
Valerie Saliba, a women’s equity representative for the Alberta Federation of Labour, spoke about the need for affordable childcare at the rally.
“When childcare isn’t accessible, it keeps women out of the workforce and it forces families to choose which parent is going to stay home,” she said, adding it is usually women who choose to stay at home.
Saliba agreed that Trump has reinvigorated women to push for their rights.
“With his inauguration, it’s put a renewed spark into women. He said a lot of derogatory things about a lot of vulnerable groups and one of them was women.”
Marni Panas, a transgender woman, said there is still a long way to go for women when it comes to LGBTQ issues.
“I know we are still struggling with many LGBTQ students in our own province to form GSAs. We’re fighting on the federal level against transphobia in our Senate to pass Bill C16,” she said. Bill C16 would amend the Human Rights Act to protect people from being discriminated because of their gender identity.
Fatima Hawa is involved with activism for women in Muslim communities and participated in the rally with her family.
“Muslim women is the whole idea of being oppressed, being submissive – we’re not like that. We’re very powerful women in the community. We do a lot of things in the community. We’re doctors, engineers, lawyers,” she said.
“We contribute a lot and people often tend to dismiss our narratives. I’m here to show Muslim women are part of this and we’re here for the fight as well. We’re not going anywhere.”
Hawa said Trump’s rhetoric against the Muslim community, including a travel ban issued to those from Muslim majority countries, inspired her to get involved with activism.
“It’s more like fuel. You don’t think we’re here – we’re going to push a bit harder for you to really see us,” she said.
International Women’s Day falls on Wednesday March 8, but organizers said they wanted to hold the event Sunday so more people could attend.