Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. As this short history on the United Nations’ website shows, the celebration of an International Women’s Day is 110 years old this year, first being observed in the United States on February 28, 1909.  The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8 in 1975, which had been designated the International Women’s Year.

The social, legal, and political equality of women is of course desirable in its own right. In a world facing the severe challenges of rapid population growth and environmental degradation, the equality of women is pivotal to addressing and solving humanity’s problems.

While women have largely achieved equality in Western democracies and a number of other countries, they are still disadvantaged in many other countries where cultural norms and traditions harmful to women and girls (and ultimately to society in general) persist. These include less access to education, early and often forced marriage, and even female genital mutilation. Even where such traditions do not occur, women may still face social discrimination or other obstacles in pursuing a career or engaging in non-traditional activities.

The reproductive role of women is of course central both to women’s equality and to environmental sustainability. A core component of PIC’s advocacy work is to “campaign for family planning support as a significant, integral part of foreign aid, consistent with the needs and wishes of recipients, which is essential to poverty reduction, educational advancement, and gender equity.”

Women in Canada have full legal equality and most have access to the full range of family planning services. PIC would like that to be the case for women everywhere –  in which case the world would be a better place for humanity, for all other life forms, and for the environment!