Treana Campbell said she knows women who belong to unions are among the most privileged in society.
That's why the Sudbury and District Labour Council decided to draw attention to organizations that help disadvantaged women with their International Women's Day event March 3, she said.
It featured an information fair showcasing local women's organizations, guest speakers and a silent auction in support of the Child and Family Centre and the N'Swakamok Native Friendship Centre's prenatal program.
The gathering was just one in a slate of events organized for International Women's Week, which runs March 2-8.
“Women who belong to labour organizations normally make more money than women who do not,” said Campbell, the chair of the labour council's women's committee.
“We usually have benefits, which other women do not have. So it helps them progress a little bit better and stay out of those levels where they're concerned about funding or money or not having benefits for their children.”
While women's rights have progressed over the years, she fears government austerity will mean lost ground.
“With the federal budget cuts and the lack of jobs, women are the ones who are usually hit most,” Campbell said.
Debbie Lemay, a housing and transitions support worker with YWCA Sudbury, works with some of the most vulnerable women in society.
“We are a shelter for women who have experienced intimate partner abuse,” she said.
“Unfortunately, right now, we're really busy. So there's definitely still a lot of work to do. Violence against women is still a very prominent issue in our society, and it needs attention.”
Lemay said she was happy to be able to participate in the International Women's Day event.
“It creates awareness, and I think it's really needed,” she said.
Tracy Gregory, who works as a sex trade peer development co-ordinator with Réseau Access Network, said March 3 not only marked International Women's Day, but also International Sex Workers Day.
While sex trade workers are undeniably vulnerable, she said it's important to identify them not as victims, but as individuals who have “access to rights and freedoms and securities,” she said.
Right now, though, sex trade workers are often so marginalized because of criminalization and other factors that they don't feel comfortable with accessing support services.
With the federal budget cuts and the lack of jobs, women are the ones who are usually hit most.
chair of the Sudbury and District Labour Council women's committee
It's important for sex workers to be able to get help “in order for people to make healthier choices and to protect themselves from the impact of things such as HIV and other issues,” Gregory said.
Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault was among those who attended the event.
He said he wants to ensure his two young daughters don't have to worry about the inequalities faced by earlier generations of women.
“We shouldn't be going backwards in terms of any type of progressive movement that is looking at women's rights in general,” Thibeault said.
Unfortunately, it seems that the federal Conservative government is less-than-interested in advancing women's rights at times, he said.
They've voted against NDP legislation which would ensure equal pay for equal work and brought forward private member's bills focusing on abolishing abortion, Thibeault said.
Upcoming International Women's Week events include:
-A freeze mob is slated for noon on March 4 at the Rainbow Centre. Afterwards, the community can take part in the Post Card Project, helping send postcards to women in shelters around the world. Postcards can be filled out at the YWCA boardroom from 1-5 p.m.
-Discussions about the women's history and gender history is slated for March 5 at 10 a.m. at Laurentian University's classroom building room C-203. A self-care drop-in centre is also open at the Elizabeth Fry Society, 204 Elm St., from 10 a.m. to noon. Later, the NDP Sudbury Executive will be talking women in politics.
-Positive Women: Exposing Injustice screening at Rainbow Cinemas March 6. The free film will screen in English at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., and in French at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
-A talk on women's mental health is taking place March 7 at 2:30 p.m. in room C-207 at Laurentian University, followed by the gathering United for Equity at 9 p.m. at the LU pub.
-The week wraps up with a breakfast celebration March 8 from 8-10 a.m. at the Days Inn, a luncheon at the Howard Johnson and a dinner at the Caruso Club.