October is Women’s History Month: Women must continue to speak out for equality

BCGEU: Stephanie Smith, Treasurer of the BCGEU and Chairperson of the Provincial Executive Women’s Committee

Every year when October rolls around, I am reminded of the struggles that women have endured over the years in our quest for justice and equality. And why our work is far from over.

Working families today are struggling, and families headed by women are struggling the most.  Women continue to be among the poorest of the poor in our province, and the risk of poverty is greatest for Aboriginal women, immigrant women, women with disabilities, single mothers, and senior women living alone.

In communities across the province, women and their children are continuing to try to dig out from a decade of cruel and vicious attacks by the BC Liberals.

These include massive cuts to services that specifically impact women—legal aid, women’s centres, seniors’ care, welfare, disability benefits, education and training, victims’ services, violence in relationship programs, human rights—as well as the elimination or contracting out of thousands of family-supporting jobs, and the freezing or rolling back of wages, benefits and working conditions.

And it’s not just what the government has done—it’s what it hasn’t done.  And top of my list is child care.  Those who know me, know that I am particularly incensed that BC still has no plan to meet the needs of working families, no plan to ensure infants and toddlers have access to quality care, and no plan to recognize the impact of full school day kindergarten on child care.

BC families face a crisis in accessing quality, affordable child care. Fees are too high — the second highest family expense after housing. Wait lists are too long, with a regulated space for only about 20 per cent of BC children. And, the wages of college trained early childhood educators are too low, forcing many to leave the field to earn a living wage.

Publicly funded, universal child care programs for young children are long overdue…

Our commitment to women’s equality and empowerment in our union has made a real difference.  Our history is rich with victories—both large and small—thanks to the tireless efforts of countless activists over the years.

But our work is far from over.  We must continue to fight the regressive policies of the BC Liberals.  We must continue to speak out for justice, for equality, for dignity and respect.  We need to make our voices heard—in our workplaces, in our union, in our communities, and at the ballot box.

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