Strong women, strong world
International Women’s Day shines a light on the struggles of women living in a foreign country
One hundred twenty-seven years ago, women were considered too delicate to be so involved in politics to need a vote.
Fifty-one years ago, the liberation movement was just in its infancy.
Thirty years ago, a woman needed a witness to prosecute for rape.
With all the progress the women’s movement has made, it’s easy to believe that all of the battles for equality have been won. With March storming in like a lion, it’s also a reminder of the fight many women still face in Canada. March is International Women’s month, with March 8 specifically set aside as International Women’s day.
Despite being a country that prides itself on its mosaic of cultures, Meelu Sachdev of the Regina Immigrant Women’s Society has seen what women immigrating to Canada have to deal with every day.
“Women who are immigrants, of course they are marginalized to a great extent,” she explained. “To bring their standards up to par is taking us a long time.”
Sachdev works daily with women who have made Canada their home. One problem these women often face is losing the community and family that were pillars in their lives before they left.
“They don’t have any family support because, usually, they are the support. They’re the mother, the wife, the everybody. So they lose their support systems.”
It’s a problem all too common for University of Regina student (and, full disclosure, Carillon staff writer) Iryn Tushabe. She has been calling Regina home since leaving Kampala, Uganda. Even though Tushabe found Canadians to be friendly, she couldn’t help but feel a culture shock.
“It was really, really bad,” Tushabe said of her first memories of Canada. “It was right in the middle of winter, and I had clothes that I thought were warm enough. But, really, they weren’t at all. I felt like I was naked.”
Raising a child and going to school can be difficult for anyone. However, Tushabe found that adjusting to a new country – without the support she’d had in Uganda – made it even harder.
“It’s been hard because I have a kid and I am a student. Often times, you’ll need help because you can’t go to school with a baby. Sometimes, daycares are not readily available,” she explained. “At home, there would have been people I knew. That was really hard, and it was mostly because I was in a foreign land.”
Tushabe is in the process of receiving her degree in film and video production, and has already taken strides in the documentary industry. Despite this progress, she has run into another issue that is common for international women.
“Being a woman in a competitive world, especially a woman who is not at home just puts you at a double disadvantage,” she’s found. “Now, being in a foreign place, where you know no one – and you are a woman – it is that much harder.”
According to Sachdev, Tushabe’s difficulties are a common problem. “The labour market is … a huge challenge”.
To celebrate the month dedicated to women dealing with these trials, the Regina Immigrant Women’s Centre will be putting on a production of Far From Home by a theatre group called Sheatre.
“It’s highlighting healthy relationships. Specifically, by showing us unhealthy relationships – like dating violence – so that we can come to know what healthy isn’t,” said Sachdev.
The production can be seen at the Hindu Temple on the closing of International Women’s month, March 31. Men and women of all cultures are encouraged to attend.
International Women’s Day, and its accompanying month, provide a time for the world to look at how far women have come. But, it should also serve as a reminder of how far things still need to go for equality for all women. Sachdev said she believes issues brought up during this month of awareness have far-reaching consequences that affect more than just women.
“It’s funny how those issues we say are immigrant women’s issues actually are all women’s issues. These are human issues. Women are the backbone of society.”
1909: The first National Women’s Day was celebrated [note to Mason: I’ll find out where when I can operate Word and Firefox at the same time]
1911: The first International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 19, but only in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland
1913: March 8 is set as the official date
1975: Declared International Women’s Year