International Women’s Day was honoured for the first time in 1911. In that year, more than 1 million people attended rallies to demand women’s rights to fair work, to vote, and to hold public office. One week later, the ‘Triangle Fire’ in New York City took the lives of 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish Immigrants. This tragedy highlighted the need for better working conditions among women and became a focus for subsequent International Women’s Day events.
One hundred and ten years later, on March 8th, 2021, the women at Romero House gathered around Zoom screens in 4 different houses to celebrate International Women’s Day. Together we represented nine different countries and six different languages. In each house, there was shared laughter and comradery as we created homemade cards with supplies bought from Hanji, a woman-owned business a few doors down from Romero House. These cards were to be sent to the women in our life, to show them our love and appreciation for their friendship.
Bridging the spaces between us, we shared poems, stories, and songs about our experiences as women.
Here is one such poem:
On the mountains where we stand, we can see and celebrate the work of the women who have come before; women who have challenged oppression and called for justice and accountability. From these mountains, we can also see how much further we still must go.
The pandemic has made it impossible to ignore the ways that women are made vulnerable by systems which depend upon their labour. This is particularly true for racialized, refugee, and migrant women. These women continue to be disproportionately represented in care roles — whether caring for children or working with the sick and elderly as personal support workers. This work is the backbone of Canada’s economy and social support system. And yet, these women workers are not paid a living wage, are forced to work hours on end, live in difficult and often unsafe conditions, and face significant barriers to accessing pathways to any permanent immigration status.
The work of challenging oppression and demanding justice is ongoing. EVERY voice counts. Sign this petition add your voice to those insisting migrant care workers be treated with dignity and respect: https://migrantrights.ca/take-action/landed-status-now/. While you add your name, you can listen to these songs that were shared during our Women’s Day Celebration:
- Somos Sur (Feat. Shadia Mansour) by Ana Tijoux
- A song in both Spanish and Arabic about women, colonialism, and the Global South
- “Roar” by Katy Perry (a true bop)
- “Wildflowers” by the Wailin’ Jennys
Now go and celebrate the Women in your life!
Written by Anika Reynar (RH Worker 2019-2021) and Laura Friesen (RH Worker 2020-2022)