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Why they walked out

Women tell us why they went on strike

Around the world, women walked out of work, or stayed home entirely, occupied government offices, flooded the streets of major cities, and donned red in support of International Women’s Day and A Day Without a Woman. We spoke to women across Canada about why the solidarity matters, what it says about the state of society and how things should change.

Deepa Mattoo

Legal Director at Barbra Schlifer Clinic, which provides legal services for women who are victims of domestic violence

I think it’s a really good action in the sense of giving attention to pay equity. In most jobs they don’t have maternity leave. When we talk about equitable work environments, most countries are far behind on this issue. In Canada, the issue of pay equity is still a problem. Talking about the fact that there is a lack of leadership positions for women. And the women who are in the position of power are constantly attacked for their gender. A man gets to say misogynistic things and still gets the power.

The challenge with an action like this though is that it’s a potential breeding ground for reprisals. Maybe this will cause women to get fired. So to make a day of action like this means that women are risking something. There is also a challenge because many women will have to choose to fight for rights but also have to put food on the table tonight for their children. There has been a lot of complacency around not talking about women’s contribution as workers in general and we should talk about it… it’s sad that we still are fighting for basic rights.

Sheila North Wilson

First female grand chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents more than 30 First Nations. She was too busy to take the day off, so she marked IWD by showing social work students part of her new documentary about missing and murdered Indigenous women, 1200+.

Unfortunately Indigenous women still today are looked down upon and disregarded, disrespected. If we look a certain way or we don’t look a certain way, we are made to feel less than. I’ve also felt that. When I’m not dressed for work and I’m out in regular clothes I get treated like I’m a thief or someone who doesn’t deserve proper customer service, I still get that, and it’s nothing new. I don’t feel safe a lot of times, and I don’t feel respected in this country. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people who are really struggling and need more support than I do.

We have to pause and take a moment to reflect on the importance of women in our communities and our international communities because we have those natural gifts and abilities that our world needs to function … It’s hard to take a break, and that’s just the nature of who we are as women. Women ask me all the time about leadership, and the focus for me is I should be treated as a person first before I am treated as a woman, because some men don’t have the same level of understanding or respect, but so far I’ve been plowing away and doing my best, and I think that’s the strength of a woman.

Lauren Dobson-Hughes

Executive director of anti-poverty organization Results Canada

This IWD, I’m taking action on gender equity. Yes, I’m celebrating the women who’ve made change and lifted me up, but I’m past mere shout outs to ‘kick ass and feisty women! in place of action. So I like the idea of the Women’s Strike because it’s tangible and real. It addresses structural barriers, rather than laying lack of progress at the feet of individual women. But I recognize the privilege in being able to strike. Those who cannot strike, like women in precarious employment, women with young children, women of colour and aboriginal women, are often the most affected by sexism. My greatest hope is that the strike sparks further action and inclusion as we build a movement to finally end misogyny in all its forms.

 Ayo Leilani, a.k.a. Witch Prophet 

Toronto-based singer/songwriter and co-founder/director of record label 88 Days of Fortune

I’m on strike today in solidarity with women (cis and trans) around the world to show those who rely on women’s work just how much we do — how much support, time and energy we provide without getting our due recognition. The strike is meant to make waves. It is the ability to disrupt the ‘norm’. International Women’s Day is important to me because it allows everyone to take a moment and appreciate the women in their lives as well as women in general. In a world where we still don’t have equality, International Women’s Day and the Strike provide a platform for conversation and change. Disrupting the norm includes not working for free or for experience. It includes intersectionality when we speak about what a ‘woman’ is. It includes taking our power back and recognizing our ability to lead — not being seen as ‘bossy’ but as the Boss.



D.W. Waterson 

Toronto DJ who hosted an all-day dance party featuring mimosas, breakfast and surf film Blue Crush to mark International Women’s Day

It’s important to bring women together and be a community and help one another get up in the ranks — getting through doors, getting opportunities, instead of being under the impression that we’re supposed to compete for one spot. I wanted to throw a party to bring people together and share in that. I’m a DJ, so DJing in the club, women can’t walk into a club without going in with the knowledge that somebody is probably going to grab their butt. They’re probably going to have something sexually inappropriate said to them. They have to be very careful when they go into these environments, and that’s something that I don’t want to perpetuate. Women should be able to come into a club or a bar and have a great time and let their guard down and not have to worry about what is in their drink or who they’re talking to or where are my friends.


Lindsay Duncan

Toronto-based photographer currently working on a series of photos called “undressed” that aims to reframe how society views women’s sexuality and their bodies

I attended the Women’s March on Washington and the strike is more in solidarity with the women living under the Trump administration. The march was just the starting point and what they’re really pushing for is 10 actions over the course of the first 100 days of the Trump presidency … I wanted to participate because I do have the privilege of being able to do that with my business, and in solidarity with the women in the States who are facing potentially a lot more discrimination and workplace instability.”

Merran Smith

Executive director of Clean Energy Canada

I’m at home today, and I’ll be celebrating the women I work with—we’re a majority female team here at Clean Energy Canada. I felt like we were making progress—women were becoming more prominent in leadership roles, but I have two daughters who are 9, and I now look at the world through their eyes, and I watch their experiences. and I’m still shocked at how while we have made some progress, how much sexism there’s still left in the system. we’ve made steps forward, but we have a long way to go.

Cover: Chris Wattie/Reuters

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