Walking across Mount Royal University (MRU) campus, the Calgary Journal asked a cross-section of people whether they were aware of Canada’s first-ever Gender Equality Week.
Turns out, not one had heard anything about Ottawa’s Sept. 23 – 29 campaign promoting gender equality and the benefits of a gender-equal society.
“I don’t think it was advertised well as a whole. I feel like Calgary can do a lot better,” says Mica Bot, one of Mount Royal’s student residence advisors.
Part of her role is updating a weekly event board, and this event flew under her radar.
Alejandra Reina, a jewellery vendor in the student centre at MRU, has also never heard of the event. However, she argues it’s individuals, not campaigns, that create gender parity.
“You create your own opportunities,” says Reina. “It’s all based on your attitude.”
Too early to be called a good job
When Kimberly Williams, MRU professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, moved to Canada 10 years ago, she was surprised that Canada didn’t have a Gender Equality Week, noting that this is the least the federal government can do to acknowledge gender inequity.
“Thirty-three per cent of women in Canada will be the victims of sexual assault in their lifetime,” says Williams. “It doesn’t sound like a lot but just to put things into perspective, the U.S., which we in Canada think of as the big bad horrible place to the south, only has a 25 per cent rate of violence against women.”
While a week of recognition is meant to raise awareness, Williams believes that a fight for equality has been going on for years and will continue as long as there is injustice.
Calgary masculinities professor champions gender equity
Michael Kehler, professor of Masculinities Studies at the University of Calgary says the campaign is a good thing, but more importantly an “ongoing conversation.”
Kehler says he’s afraid of society moving backwards.
“The fear is that it will return to the rhetoric that you see with Trump — and ‘boys being boys, that’s locker room stuff.’ There’s a justification behind that kind of discourse and for me, it is dangerous to slip back to ‘that’s just the way it is.’”
How Calgary is celebrating
Several events celebrated the inaugural Gender Equality Week in Calgary, including the anniversary of the swearing in of the very first female city councillor, Annie Gale. Her election in 1917 marked the first time a female municipal politician was elected in Canada.
“It is incredibly important that we celebrate the contributions of Gale while also realizing the work we have to do to create true gender equity in our community and our institutions,” stated Mayor Naheed Nenshi in news release from the City of Calgary.
The gender gap in Canada
With the launch of Gender Equality Week, the Status of Women Canada website features the federal government’s achievements and plans to reduce gender disparity, including:
- $40 million on a National Housing Strategy with 25 per cent supporting women;
- Almost $200 million in the inaugural Federal Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence;
- $650 million in organizations to close existing gaps in reproductive rights and health care services;
- $100 million over five year for Status of Women Canada to promote women in leadership roles.
Gender Equality Week will take place during the last week of every September going forward.