Women's Rights are Children's Rights
Our Op-ed from the January 27, 2017 edition of the Calgary Herald: There's Good Reason Albertans marched in the streets last weekend
Last Saturday, an estimated 120,000 people across Canada marched in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington.
Approximately 10,000 of those participants were in Alberta.
It is safe to say Albertans marched in opposition to the outcome of the recent American election. It’s safe to say we are concerned about women’s rights in the U.S.
It is also safe to say something deeper motivated 120,000 Canadians to spend their Saturday marching in the streets. Albertans marched in solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington to demonstrate that we too are dedicated to protecting women’s rights in Canada.
Since the march, Albertans are discussing how to turn this event into a movement — how to capitalize on this awakening and find new resolve to protect and uphold equity in Alberta.
We know that when women are marginalized, so too are children. Ninety-three per cent of Alberta children are educated through the public school system. Perhaps the best place to address inequity faced by Albertans is through public education. Addressing the policies that highlight inequities is an excellent starting point.
School fees across Alberta are on the rise. For many Albertans, September is more financially stressful than December, and can be crippling for families existing around the poverty line.
Albertans marched because women are overrepresented in poverty.
We marched because one in six Alberta children live in poverty, a statistic largely unchanged in 25 years.
We marched because the wage gap and cost of child care contribute to inequities that make school fees disproportionately difficult for women.
We marched because access to education is a human right.
We call upon our government to eliminate school fees across the province.
Food insecurity is a reality for many low-income families and is highest among households led by single mothers.
Albertans marched because 41 per cent of Calgary Food Bank clients are children for whom hunger can be a barrier to learning.
We marched because overcrowded schools have led to space and time crunches that promote unhealthy eating habits.
We call for a provincewide nutrition program that gives all children the adequate space, time and nutrition necessary to fuel their bodies and minds.
Albertans marched because sexual assault against girls and women is the only violent crime in Canada that is not declining. Since 1999, rates of sexual assault have remained largely unchanged.
We marched because only one in three Canadians understand what consent means.
We marched because 39 per cent of Canadian adult women reported having had at least one experience of sexual assault since the age of 16.
We call for a properly updated sexual health curriculum in Alberta. We must insist on addressing body autonomy, body agency and consent. We can no longer ignore that women and girls are disproportionately affected by sexual violence.
Albertans marched because we are concerned about the mental health and well-being of fellow Albertans and believe supports are a basic human right.
We marched because women’s mental health is undermined by social isolation, restricted decision-making, devalued role expectations, poverty, violence and sexual abuse.
We marched because we know severity and duration of mental health problems are reduced through early identification and intervention.
We marched because not all parents have the resources to access supports for their children.
We call for every school in Alberta to be provided with proper expertise to address growing concerns for the mental health of our children.
We marched last Saturday because there is growing concern over the continued injustices faced by women across the world. It’s time to mobilize around issues such as public education, which influence the lives of the majority of Alberta families.
Albertans can take action by joining women-led organizations such as Support Our Students Alberta and supporting school board, municipal, provincial and federal political candidates who truly understand how empowering women and supporting public education can improve the lives of Alberta children.