Message from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, Governor General of Canada, on the occasion of International Women’s Day
Ottawa, Ontario –(March 5, 2009) –
In Canada, we pride ourselves on believing in gender equality. On believing that women and men should share responsibilities and obligations. On believing in the full emancipation of women and girls, so that they are able to work and give the best of themselves, in every sphere of society, including leadership positions.We have come a long way. Eighty years ago, we women were not even considered persons in our country. It was not until the beginning of the last century that we obtained the right to vote. In 1916, Manitoba was the first province in Canada to grant women the right to vote. In Quebec, it was not until 1940. And for Aboriginal women, it was not until 1960. Since then, much has been accomplished, but there is still so much to be done.
In partnership with Status of Women Canada and Equal Voice, we had the pleasure of holding a forum this week at Rideau Hall that brought together 100 youth-girls and boys-and women with experience in a number of fields, including members of Parliament, for a rich and animated discussion on the underrepresentation of women in politics. In this regard, Canada currently ranks 46th in the world, well behind countries such as Norway, Sweden, Afghanistan, Rwanda and Argentina.
To mark International Women’s Day, it will be my privilege to speak at the International Colloquium on Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security in Monrovia, at the invitation of the President of Liberia, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first woman on the African continent to be elected as head of State. This wonderful initiative, conceptualized by President Johnson Sirleaf and with the resolute support of the President of Finland, Her Excellency Tarja Halonen, will bring together many other heads of state and government, ministers, parliamentarians, as well as hundreds of women of action from civil society, from every generation. I will have the opportunity to share Canada’s perspective. As I travel across our country, I always take the time to speak with the women I meet, to note their concerns, challenges, difficulties and achievements. The women’s movement in Canada remains ever vigilant and has ensured that many men and institutions are now, more than ever before, joining in the fight.
I believe that while Canada has done much for the recognition of women’s rights and continues to defend these rights, particularly within the United Nations and in terms of co-operation, it is important that we learn from the experiences and practices of other countries, other cultures, other women around the world who share this sense of urgency and vigilance. As the world struggles through the current economic crisis, it is women and children who are most affected. Wherever violence and terror hold sway, women bear the scars.
In the spirit of Canada’s theme for International Women’s Day 2009, it is through the strength of our leadership and the strength of our combined efforts that we women are helping to build a stronger world. And of course, we are doing so as equals.
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