Alliance logo accompanied by the words "Calling for action on International Women's day 2024: Our statement."

We mark and celebrate International Women’s Day with a call to action in support of women’s and girls' health in Ontario, in Canada and around the world.

Women’s health touches a vast array of advocacy fronts at local, national, and international levels. These include access to housing, settlement and refugee services; reproductive health care including access to abortion services and no-cost contraception options; mental health care and supports for women and girls facing domestic violence; and more. All of these things are interrelated.

Overseas, war and conflict continue to disproportionately impact women and, in many cases, the children they’re caring for. In Canada, we fail women who arrive at our doorstep seeking refuge from violence, greeting them with apathy and austerity. We witnessed this in the systemic, anti-Black racist misogyny that led to the recent death of a woman in Mississauga, outside of a shelter, only a few days after she arrived from Kenya. This is unacceptable. Canada cannot be a beacon to the world for women’s rights while we allow these conditions to flourish, while our policies lag behind the principles we stand for.

The same goes for our criminal justice system, and the ways in which we police and enforce laws to protect women from domestic violence and abuse. We agree with the federal government that “intimate partner violence is an epidemic in Canada.” So then, what are our leaders doing about it? Are they making it easier for women to get support from community? To press criminal charges when they need to, before violence and murder make it too late? What’s being done to address the impacts coercive control has on women’s health as it’s left legally unchecked in Canada?

Similar apathy persists on taking action for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. A recent statement outlined progress made by the federal government and its partners. Still, Indigenous women and girls continue to go missing or to be killed, and to live unsafe and unhealthy lives because of legacies of colonial violence and the intergenerational trauma of residential schools, the Sixties scoop, and more recent abuses within systems such as children’s aid societies. To truly meet the calls to action of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, we must act in our communities by calling out unacceptable policies and conditions, and we must demand action from our governments on the national and provincial levels.

As part of IWD2024 around the world, we add our voices to the calls to action from the United Nations, including investing in violence prevention and ending poverty. We stand in solidarity with women and girls around the world who face unjust, violent and disempowering conditions.

Back at home, we are encouraged by the federal government’s recent universal pharmacare policy announcement. The new plan is set to ensure universal access to contraception in all parts of Canada. Those most impacted by the lack of access and cost have been women, people with low incomes and young people. This announcement is a big win for advocacy and for women’s health, and for reproductive health care as a human right.

On the issue of abortion and women’s health, it’s heartening to hear the Prime Minister’s staunch support of a “woman’s right to choose” and access to safe abortions.  We need to stand strong with organizations that are supporting abortion rights throughout Canada and vigilantly ensuring access to abortion by removing barriers to accessing care.

We don’t need to look elsewhere to see where people are falling short to protect women and their right to control their bodies. Right here, forced sterilizations continue, and they disproportionately impact Indigenous women. This is unacceptable, and we need to see action from leaders to end this practice for good.

Lastly, today we spotlight the work of Alliance members for women’s health, across primary health care, research, health promotion, disease prevention and screening, pregnancy and parenting, and care-giving, to name just a few. We recognize the advocacy for women’s health and wellbeing that our members practice year-round. We recognize that Alliance members are working hard to surface and address the intersectional barriers that women from many backgrounds, including those who are racialized, LGBTQ+, or living with low incomes, face in achieving equitable health and wellbeing. We stand with you, in solidarity, and we will continue to advocate for action.

Happy International Women’s Day.

Friday, March 8, 2024