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 MARCH 2021

“Indigenous and Black women have been targeted by violence, because they weave relationships, emotional bonds and always are working to keep families and communities together in the middle of the war . . .”

Amelia, Colombian social leader and activist in
Peace for Indigenous and Black Communities in Colombia?

International Women's Day in a Global Pandemic

It’s March 8, 2021. We are mere days away from the dreaded one-year “pandemicversary” that has been looming from my calendar ever since the second wave of COVID-19 spread across Canada last fall. As I count down to March 11 — 365 days from when the WHO declared COVID a pandemic, and despite a simultaneously overtired and overwired brain, I can’t help reflecting on what a day like International Women’s Day means in the context of this pandemic.

So far, it looks like Zoom rallies, even more virtual panels and webinars, and various interpretations of this year’s theme, #ChooseToChallenge. In many ways, it feels like just another groggy Monday blurred into many other Mondays. But what does it mean?

What do the usual Official Statements, tweets, Instagram posts with saccharine declarations of gratitude for mothers, wives, daughters and sisters (in that order) mean in the context of a global crisis that is disproportionately impacting women — even more so, Indigenous, Black, racialized, queer, trans and differently-abled women? What about promises of equity, equality, and a so-called #FeministRecovery?

 

A little ICYMI* for IWD:
The statistics paint an even bleaker picture for Indigenous, Black and racialized women, who are paid less, and overrepresented in frontline work as well as industries that faced closures due to pandemic restrictions (like the food services, tourism, and retail industries). Here’s one example from the healthcare sector: In Toronto, over 90 per cent of PSWs and nurses in long-term care homes are racialized.

*In case you missed it

 

If you’re feeling increasingly cynical like I am, #IWD statements by politicians and corporate interests read especially poorly against the backdrop of a crisis in health, housing and job security. If the last year has shown us anything, it’s that unprecedented crisis or not, the systems of power and privilege that sideline and economically marginalize women and other vulnerable groups are frighteningly steadfast and growing. So we must also be steadfast, and we must also grow, both in our work, and in our movements.

Whether we’re focused on the record-breaking profits raked in by abusive employers like Amazon, or the explosive real estate markets in already unaffordable cities that make more and more neighborhoods unliveable for low-income households, or the rolling back of paltry pandemic pay-raises for front-line grocery store workers, The Work of standing up to those injustices has never been more important.

There’s been lots of talk about what, or who, is essential. In this time of virtual-everything, isolation, and desperation, I think our communities are what is essential. The bonds of sisterhood, siblinghood and solidarity feel, to me, more important than anything.

Connection and camaraderie remain a lifeline through challenging times. Particularly now, connection with like-minded folks to achieve (or even just articulate) shared goals feels like a tether to reality. I still long for in-person events, rallies where I can shout with others ­— and not just through a screen — but for now, it’s through social media connections, video calls, slack channels, group chats, and of course, unions, that I am finding strength to carry on towards whatever future lies ahead.

Before I return to my schedule of virtual IWD programming, a reminder that part of my work at Our Times is to help spread the word about your favourite independent labour magazine, and to reach out to our vibrant labour community. I’d love to speak with you about how your colleagues, collectives, and caucuses could use Our Times. Send me an email about your union’s Women’s Committee, Equity Committee or Human Rights Committee, or what you’d like to see in the magazine. Let’s connect.

Happy International Women’s Day,

In Solidarity,

Haseena Manek
for Our Times

P.S. Our next issue is headed to the presses! Check out a preview of the contents here. Don’t forget to renew your subscription so you don’t miss this one! And if you’re not yet subscribed, here’s where to go. Join us soon and we’ll be able to start you off with the current issue!

Peace for Indigenous and Black Communities in Colombia?

Women have been pivotal in ensuring that the Ethnic Commission for Peace and the Defense of Territorial Rights focuses on gender, families and generations. Keep reading…

Championing Spirituality in the Workplace

What of workers made to suffer a spiritual crisis because they can’t hold their dying resident’s hand and pray with them on their deathbed? Keep reading…

Working with Courage and Care

“I love being a first responder and saving lives,” says mental health worker Brionne Kennedy, who works in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. A sneak peek at Our Times’ Winter issue. Keep reading…

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