International Women’s Day is about celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, but this year, we turned our attention to the women of the future.
Global News asked 8-year-old girls from across the country about their hopes (and fears) for the future, and the answers ranged from sweet and funny to downright inspirational.
They also have a wide range of concerns, from the environment to the gender pay gap and more. That’s why improving life for future generations of girls and women is the central focus for the Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF), said vice-president of public engagement Andrea Gunraj.
“Girls are awesome and they have so much potential, but there are some things we feel really disturbed about,” said Gunraj.
A big concern for the CWF is the mental health of girls as they go through adolescence and into adulthood.
“In Grade 6, 36 per cent of girls say they feel self-confident. By Grade 10, this goes down to 14 per cent,” Gunraj said. “Twelve per cent of girls in the teenage years say they have experienced a major depressive episode at some point.”
This can present barriers for leadership, it can reinforce gendered stereotypes and it ultimately contributes to the oppression of women.
“You have to be nice. You have to be smart enough, you have to be pretty and sexy. You have to be responsible. You have to be helpful and do well in school, but don’t get victimized.”
It’s not all bad news — some progress has been made.
The federal cabinet is comprised of 50 per cent women and 50 per cent men, and 82 per cent of women aged 25 to 54 participate in the Canadian workforce. Women are increasingly securing leadership positions at large companies and in politics.
However, there’s still a long way to go before Canadian men and women can be considered equal.
Women are still earning an average of 84 cents for every $1 earned by men, and women only hold 15 per cent of CEO positions. Violence against women continues to be a major problem — in fact, one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. These numbers are even worse for women of colour and newcomers to Canada.
By 2030, the CWF hopes to see more work aimed at helping girls realize their potential.
Gunraj believes this starts with a national action plan on violence against women — one that addresses the higher barriers faced by racialized girls and girls with disabilities, among others.
“I do believe things will be better for girls in 2030, but we can’t forget that progress doesn’t just happen on its own,” she said.
“Let’s give these girls all that they deserve — and they deserve for us, as adults, to make the world better now.”
Hopefully, the girls who spoke to Global News can look back on this story in 10 years’ time — when they turn 18 and officially become adults — and see how much has changed.
Kaitlyn Jacobsen, 8, Victoria, B.C.
What do you think it means to be a woman? “To me, being a woman means that you don’t have to wait for other people to do things for you. You can do them yourself.”
What do you think you’ll be like as a woman? “I think I’ll be inspiring and I’ll help other children and other women to follow their dreams and get their rights for what they need and want.”
What do you think the future will look like? “Many people inspiring others and helping each other and being kind to one another.”
What changes do you want to see in your lifetime? “For women, in particular, I want to see more of them not being treated like they have to do this or they have to do something else — they can do something that they want to do when they’re ready to do it.”
Ivy Cassandra Cobbler, 8, Montreal
What do you think you’ll be like as a woman? “Living alone because my parents are always telling me what to do… and maybe I’ll go into the WNBA.”
What changes do you want to see in your lifetime? “I want to see if they have something to cure the coronavirus, because it’s in Italy now.”
Lilly Bennett, 8, Halifax, N.S.
What do you think it means to be a woman? “A woman is special and they’re powerful.”
What do you think you’ll be like as a woman? “I think I’ll be a very caring woman that will help people.”
What do you think the future will look like? “Women will be able to do things like play in the NHL and fight wars.”
What changes do you want to see in your lifetime? “That women can do more stuff in the world and that they’re seen as the same as men.”
Anjola Abraham, 8, Regina, Sask.
What do you think it means to be a woman? “A woman is an independent and responsible adult.”
What do you think you’ll be like as a woman? “I would like to be successful in my career, happily married with children.”
What do you think the future will look like? “I see a future with hope and brightness.”
What changes do you want to see in your lifetime? “I hope to see continuous progress in my academics and be more involved with sports.”
Reece Theisen, 8, Grande Prairie, Alta.
What do you think it means to be a woman? “Girls are big women, they are strong and brilliant. Women are funny, kind and beautiful. My mom is all those things.”
What do you think you’ll be like as a woman? “When I’m a woman, I will be good at parenting because I want to have twins. When I am grown up, I think I will have long brown hair, I will have normal clothes but I think I will live in a house in the city.”
What do you think the future will look like? “I want to have a pet rabbit so my kids will play with the rabbit instead of being on their electronics all the time. I would like to have a job as a nanny to take care of kids. I will probably get married but I don’t need to have a man.”
What changes do you want to see in your lifetime? “Bullies should not be bullies and they should be nice. All our garbage should not be in the ocean, because turtles are being killed by garbage in the ocean. I have researched it — it’s bad for the dolphins and sharks, too.”
Ariana Dakri, 8, Toronto
What do you think it means to be a woman? “I think what it means to be a woman is to be strong, brave, kind, caring and independent.”
What do you think you’ll be like as a woman? “I think I’m going to be strong, brave, independent, kind and caring.”
What do you think the future will look like? “I think there will be more pollution and more global warming.”
Joanne Harrington, 8, Barrie, Ont.
What do you think it means to be a woman? “Smart.”
What do you think you’ll be like as a woman? “Helpful, like my mom.”
What do you think the future will look like? “Beautiful, with no trash on the ground. I would like to be an artist.”
What changes do you want to see in your lifetime? “No trash, clean, being nice with no bullying and people reusing things.”
Interviews have been edited for clarity.