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More than just a card

Dene Moore
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Dene Moore: International Women’s Day looks a little different in the Cariboo – but it’s just as important.

Sunday is International Women’s Day. There will be – fairly enough – articles decrying the slow progress of women in the C-suite and cabinet offices.

But here’s to the rural women. The ones who will get up Sunday to check the cows and feed the chickens and fix fences – all before breakfast, the same as they do every other day of the week, 365 days a year.

Here’s to the women who make up 38 per cent of B.C.’s agricultural workforce, who are often recorded as “not participating in the labour force.” They are women who have no sick days, no maternity leave, no Employment Insurance safety net.

Here’s to the women who own one-third of the small businesses in B.C. and to the 1,079,000 self-employed women in Canada, who account for 37 per cent of self-employed people. It’s not good enough, but it’s getting better.

Here’s to the women who make up 38 per cent of B.C.’s agricultural workforce.

Please don’t buy a card for anyone to mark International Women’s Day. It’s not Christmas.

It’s a call to action for gender parity, a reminder that we still don’t earn as much or go as far, as quickly, as men in almost every economic indicator, regardless of qualifications or experience.

So instead, buy a product from a woman entrepreneur. Review your purchasing contracts and look for opportunities to contract female-owned suppliers and services. Have a look at your wage grid and ensure women and men are receiving equal pay for work of equal value to your enterprise.

Where I live, rural women face increased barriers to parity.

About 62 per cent of British Columbia’s population is urban. Rural and small communities of less than 29,999 account for 25.3 per cent.

How many are women? Take your best guess. It seems that’s what policymakers are doing because I can’t find a relevant statistic on the gender divide.

When I look around the Cariboo, I see a community shaped by strong women.

I can say that as of July 2010, the most recent statistics that seem to be available, seven out of 10 Canadian women lived in metropolitan areas. That means just 30 per cent live in rural and small communities.

We are outnumbered, overworked, underemployed and over-represented in statistics on violence against women, and lack of access to health services and educational opportunities.

And yet….

When I look around the rural community where I live, in the Cariboo, I see a community shaped by strong women.

I see the elder matriarchs of the Northern Secwepemc community working on their own time and their own dime to teach their language and culture to youth.

I see ranchers who feed the horses and do the haying and still make it to the school early to cook for the school breakfast program.

I see half of the directors of our Cariboo Regional District board tending to the often unappreciated business of governing.

I see farm market vendors feeding the community local, hand-made and home-grown with smiles on their faces.

I see wives doing the books for their family-owned forestry businesses.

So don’t buy a card for anyone on International Women’s Day. Buy into the fact that women have not yet achieved parity and still need support from each other and from allies to get there.

Dene Moore is an award-winning journalist and writer. A news editor and reporter for The Canadian Press news agency for 16 years, Moore is now a freelance journalist living in the South Cariboo. Moore’s two decades in daily journalism took her as far afield as Kandahar as a war correspondent and the Innu communities of Labrador. She has worked in newsrooms in Vancouver, Montreal, Regina, Saskatoon, St. John’s and Edmonton. She has been published in the Globe and Mail, Maclean’s magazine, the New York Times and the Toronto Star, among others. She is a Habs fan and believes this is the year.

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