Celebrating International Women’s Day 2021 and Speaking Up for Change



Dr. Unjali Malhotra, Women's Medical Director, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical OfficerDr-Unjali-Malhotra.jpg

International Women's Day is a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and to speak up for women's right to equality.

There is a lot to celebrate!

Every day, not just on this day, Indigenous women and women of colour, as well as our allies and partners, can “choose to challenge" the sexist and/or racist views some people still have of women who have endured trauma, oppression and colonialism. One of the ways we can do this is by publicly celebrating our many achievements: 

• Let's celebrate that we are resilient warriors who have been through much and are still standing tall; that we are victors, not victims.

• Let's celebrate that we are life givers and are giving our babies good lives.

• Let's celebrate that we are artists and artisans, and can create beauty and joy and understanding through art.

• ​Let's celebrate that we are musicians and dancers, and can express our passion through our music and movements.           

• Let's celebrate that we are deeply connected to our lands and waters, and can nourish our communities.

• Let's celebrate that we are matriarchs and that we deserve to be honoured!

• Let's celebrate that we have climbed many mountains and will climb many more – together.

• Let's celebrate that we can hear our ancestors, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunties roar louder than any force or challenge that stands against us.

There is still a lot that needs to change.

This year's theme for International Women's Day 2021 is “Choose to Challenge," because “through challenge comes change."

Women around the world face injustices and inequalities because of our gender – this is known as sexism – but, as we know all too well, Indigenous women and women of colour face the added injustice of racism.

From my years as a physician specializing in women's health, I know that many Indigenous women and women of colour have fears in the area of sexual and reproductive health – as well as general health. This is due to having experienced trauma, including in the health care system, as a result of systemic sexism and racism. 

For people who have experienced trauma, routine health check-ups, especially sexual and reproductive health check-ups, are often an emotionally distressing experience. It is important to know, however, that taking care of our health is an aspect of our overall wellness that must not be ignored. 

If you've experienced trauma, and it's affecting your ability to take care of your health by coming in for routine medical check-ups, know there are things you can do to make your health care experiences less difficult. Please visit this link to read about actions, tools, and techniques you can take and use. They include: 

• Getting connected to a care provider you can trust, one who practises culturally safe and trauma-informed health care.

• Talking to other women to find out if their practitioner is respectful, kind and caring.

• Bringing a supportive friend or relative to your appointment.

• Reading up why routine health check-ups to catch problems early is so important.

• Understanding that your reactions are normal.

• Making use of certain techniques (provided in the message) to support you through health check-ups. 

Here's one way to show your support for women's equality.

The official website for International Women's Day (IWD) is asking people to share images of themselves facing the camera with one hand up with the hashtag #ChooseToChallenge in the caption. The hand up is meant to signify that you are calling out and standing against gender bias. Images should be in the ratio of 16:9. They may be shared on the IWD website.​

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