Woman looking toward horizonWith the New Year comes new opportunity for progress toward ending gender-based violence and poverty, and promoting women’s leadership.

As we head into January 2016, here are a few of the events, milestones, and developments we’ll be watching for in Canada.

Suffrage Centennial: Let’s start the year with a toast to Manitoba! In January 1916,women in Manitoba won the right to vote and hold government office at the provincial level. Women in Saskatchewan and Alberta won the right to vote later that year. It wasn’t until 1918 that women in Canada won the right to vote on a federal level, (1960 for Indigenous women covered by the Indian Act), but let’s remember that 100 years ago, Manitoba blazed a trail.

Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls: In December, the Federal Government launched the first phase of its inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Meetings are happening with family members, front-line workers, justice workers, as well as Indigenous women’s organizations. The inquiry is on the right track with its commitment to an “inclusive and respectful engagement process.” Given that the best solutions often come from those closest to the problems, we hope the inquiry empowers and amplifies the voices of Indigenous women and girls.

Continuing the conversation about consent, sexual assault, and gender-based violence: Jian Ghomeshi’s name will be back in the headlines when he returns to court in February. But the trial isn’t all about him. It’s an opportunity to continue the national conversation about the importance of consent. The case also raises questions about how our workplaces, universities, police, and justice system respond to those who report sexual assault. We will also be watching for developments related to the government’s recent commitment to developing a national action plan on gender-based violence. In last year’s Throne Speech, there was also a promise of “legislation that will provide greater support for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.”

Renewed commitment to women’s economic development: When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his ministerial mandates public, we were happy to see a renewed commitment to women’s economic development. Patty Hajdu, Minister of the Status of Women, is mandated “to make meaningful progress on reducing the wage gap between men and women.” She’s also expected to increase the number of women in senior decision-making positions, and in fields such as skilled trades, where they have traditionally been under-represented. We look forward to hearing about next steps toward making these commitments a reality.

A dose of inspiration on International Women’s Day: As we continue the quest for gender equality in 2016, it’s great to have role models who help us stay inspired. The Canadian Women’s Foundation is co-hosting an International Women’s Day event featuring feminist icon Gloria Steinem at the University of Calgary on March 8. (Registration is limited – stay tuned for more information on public attendance.) 

As Steinem says, “Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”

Let’s keep dreaming for women and girls in Canada.

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