People holding Palestinian flags and portraits of Palestinian women attend Toronto's annual International Women's Day (IWD) march on March 2, 2024 in Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu via Getty Images)

International Women’s Day 2024 Canada

On March 8, people around the country will come together to celebrate International Women’s Day 2024 in Canada. It’s a global day organized annually that recognizes and celebrates women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements.

But International Women’s Day is more important than ever before. Last year, there were alarming assaults on the rights of women in Canada and around the world. Legal protections were also dismantled, and women worldwide faced unprecedented risk.

Achieving gender equality and protecting women’s rights is crucial. Therefore, governments must decisively reverse these widening economic inequalities and protect women’s rights.

On International Women’s Day 2024, join Amnesty International and take action to uphold women’s rights in countries worldwide.

The world’s crises do not impact equally, let alone fairly. The disproportionate impacts on women’s and girls’ rights are well-documented yet still neglected, when not ignored outright.

– Agnès Callamard, Amnesty’s Secretary General
People holding Palestinian flags and portraits of Palestinian women attend Toronto's annual International Women's Day (IWD) march on March 2, 2024 in Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu via Getty Images)
People holding Palestinian flags and portraits of Palestinian women attend Toronto’s annual International Women’s Day (IWD) march on March 2, 2024, in Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Why do we celebrate International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day is a global day to celebrate our collective efforts as women. It also serves as a reminder that there is still much work to be done to achieve gender equality.

Achieving gender equality

The past four years – dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic – had a disproportionate impact on women. Domestic violence and sexual assault increased, job insecurity for women worsened, access to sexual and reproductive health services eroded, and girls’ enrollment in schools reduced dramatically in many places.

In many countries, those who are already the most marginalized as a result of intersecting social identities, such as gender, race, disability, and socio-economic status, are also the hardest hit. During the pandemic, government decisions worsened the gender equality of women in Canada and countries worldwide.

This means that we must increase our efforts in achieving gender equality. We must also make sure that women, girls, and gender-diverse people are not left behind in this post-pandemic era.

Women’s march organized by the March 8 Women’s Platform in Kadıköy, ahead of International Women’s Day, on March 3, 2024, in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Sercan Ozkurnazli via Getty Images)

Women’s rights are human rights

Women in countries worldwide right now are imprisoned or targeted with harassment and violence just for practicing their rights.

Those rights are defined by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the following:

  • the right to live a life free from violence and slavery
  • the right to be educated
  • the right to earn a fair and equal wage
  • the right to own property
  • the right to free expression
  • voting rights

Therefore International Women’s Day 2024 is the perfect time to stand up for women’s rights. So here’s how women’s rights were under attack in many countries in the past year. Plus, find some ideas of how you can help.

Online attacks on women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people in public-facing professions

As we mark International Women’s Day, Black, Indigenous, and racialized women in public-facing professions are increasingly targets of hate. In Canada, politicians, activists, defenders and journalists face daily discrimination, harassment, violence and hate speech. This includes vandalism, hate mail, trolling, death threats and physical violence.

In 2022, women politicians and journalists faced violence and threats in Canada. For example, the constituency office of Toronto MPP Jill Andrew was vandalized. Racialized women on the campaign trail also were harassed. Then the Canadian Association of Journalists wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau to draw attention to the “targeted, vile threats of violence” against women journalists.

In February 2023, the office of Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General Mary May Simon closed, commenting on its social media accounts. A statement posted to the Governor General’s Twitter account explained the decision. “In recent months, we have witnessed an increase in abusive, misogynistic and racist engagement on social media and online platforms,” the statement said, “including a greater number of violent threats.”

When they attack us, they’re saying we don’t belong there. They’re trying to shut us down, intimidate us, silence us, or distract us so that we’re not dealing with the real issues we want to deal with. That’s why a lot of them do it. It’s because they really don’t think that a Black woman belongs in these spaces.

– Canadian Journalist

The Cyber Activist Liz Fong-Jones

Liz Fong-Jones is a Vancouver-based developer, engineer, labour and ethics organizer, and advocate for trans rights. In 2022, she and a dozen volunteers spent thousands of hours successfully forcing Kiwi Farms, an online hate-speech forum, offline multiple times. Now, she’s the target of transphobia, racism, harassment, and threats of sexual violence by the website’s supporters.

Liz’s experiences shed light on the broader issue of technology-facilitated gender-based violence, which includes cyberbullying, doxing, swatting, and more. Online violence disproportionately creates a digital environment of fear and intimidation, especially for Indigenous, Black and racialized women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities.

Liz Fong-Jones and a dozen volunteers spent thousands of hours trying to make sure the anti-trans hate site Kiwi Farms stayed offline. (Photo by Jackie Dives for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Liz Fong-Jones and a dozen volunteers spent thousands of hours trying to make sure the anti-trans hate site Kiwi Farms stayed offline. (Photo by Jackie Dives for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Unfortunately, in many countries around the world, women activists, journalists and politicians also face increasing violence and imprisonment. Since last fall, Amnesty International campaigned to stop violent repression in Iran.

A protester holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini during a demonstration in Turkey in support of Amini, a young Iranian woman who died after being arrested in Tehran by the Islamic Republic’s ‘morality police.’ (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

What is happening with women’s rights in Iran?

Women and girls were at the forefront of the popular #WomanLifeFreedom uprising in 2022, challenging decades of gender-based discrimination and violence. They continue to defy discriminatory and degrading compulsory veiling laws that result in daily harassment and violence by state and non-state actors, arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, and denial of access to education, employment and public spaces.  

Their agency follows a long tradition of women human rights defenders in Iran challenging a system determined to treat them as second-class citizens. Narges Mohammadi and Zeynab Jalalian, both long-term women human rights defenders, have been repeatedly targeted and detained for their human rights work. Amnesty International is calling for their immediate and unconditional release. 

Iranian authorities are desperately trying to reassert their dominance and power over those who dare to stand up against decades of oppression and inequality. The past months have seen a surge in executions and the use of the death penalty as a tool of political repression. The international community must do more to hold Iranian authorities genuinely accountable for ongoing and grave human rights violations. 

Urge Canada to support survivors and victims of human rights violations in Iran. >>

Residents make search and rescue efforts following an Israeli attack on a house belonging to the al-Haj family at the Nuseirat refugee camp in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on November 21, 2023. Photo by Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images.

Women in Gaza face a different kind of war

UN Women, the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, has called the conflict in Gaza a “war on women”. Some 9000 women have been killed, with an unknown number lost under the rubble. Every day an average of 63 women are killed including 37 mothers, leaving children increasingly vulnerable. Women are often tasked with finding food in a context verging on famine, and many opt to eat less and last. Of the 12 women’s organizations surveyed by UN Women, ten reported being reduced to essential emergency services. In crowded temporary displacement camps, little support exists for those facing gender-based violence.

The United Nations Population Fund echoed concerns of malnutrition among an estimated 155,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women. A devastated health care system and lack of sanitation and clean water has dramatically increased risk of infection, including for hundreds  of thousands of menstruating women and girls with extremely limited access to menstrual hygiene supplies.

Women are risking their lives to document and share stories of daily life in Gaza. According to the International Federation of Journalists, at least 13 women journalists have already lost their lives in Gaza.

Andorran human rights activist could stand trial

In Andorra, another women’s rights defender, Vanessa Mendoza Cortés, could soon stand trial for speaking out for the rights of women. She spoke before a United Nations expert body in 2019. Subsequently, she faces a heavy fine and a criminal record if convicted.

Andorra’s authorities should drop the charge against Mendoza Cortés. Her changes stem solely from her activities advocating for equal rights, including sexual and reproductive rights for women.

This International Women’s Day, join Amnesty in taking urgent action now to urge the Attorney General of Andorra to drop the charges against Mendoza Cortés immediately.

Participants during the annual Red Dress Day march in downtown Edmonton, hosted by Project REDress, commemorating the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls across Canada. On Thursday, 5 May 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Help end violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people

This International Women’s Day, you can also help raise awareness of the rights of Indigenous women in Canada.

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls finished its work more than four years ago. However, this crisis has not gone away. Despite the Calls for Justice made in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, that request the urgent safety of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQIA+ people, only 2 of the 231 Calls for Justice have been implemented by the Government of Canada in the last four years. 

In December 2022, police announced charges in the murder of four Indigenous women at the hands of an alleged serial killer linked to white supremacist ideology. Unfortunately, it was another tragic sign that urgent action to address the ongoing genocide of Indigenous women is still needed. For that reason, Amnesty joined Families of Sisters in Spirit and the families of the murdered First Nation women in speaking out about police negligence, anti-Indigenous racism and discrimination.

Canada also has a long history of harm and human rights abuses against Indigenous land and water defenders who are opposing colonial expropriation and protecting their lands and waters from extractive and resource development industry projects. Indigenous women, Two Spirit and gender diverse defenders not only experience criminalization and surveillance but also state-sanctioned sexual and gender-based violence in their attempts to preserve their lands and waters and heal their communities.

Call on the government of Canada to respect the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples and protect Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ land and water defenders through urgent compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Calls for Justice outlined in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and recommendations highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

In 2021, Mohawk water protector Layla Staats was arrested on the first day of a militarized RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en Nation’s territory in British Columbia. Staats shared that she experienced anti-Indigenous racism and sexual and gender-based violence during her interactions with the RCMP and Canada’s criminal justice system.  

The Tiny House Warriors are a Secwépemc women-led land and water defender movement that is actively opposing the Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMX) construction project and the development of nearby ‘man-camps’. Tiny House Warrior co-founder Kanahus Manuel spoke about her about her experiences of anti-Indigenous racism and gender-based violence with Amnesty International. Read Kanahus’s blog and take action to protect the rights of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ defenders.

To learn more about how you can advocate for the rights of Indigenous women in Canada this International Women’s Day, read Amnesty’s Stolen Sisters Campaign Guide.

A collage of faces of human rights defenders and the environment they seek to protect.
Graphic by Rachel Lim

A wave of new threats against women defenders in Colombia

Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to defend human rights. Women defenders are facing a wave of dangerous new death threats and attacks aimed at silencing their voices. This is in spite of important emergency measures taken by the reform government of President Petro and Vice President Márquez, the first Afro-Colombian woman human rights defender to become vice president.

Listen to what Colombian defenders want to tell us. Read this blog. Watch this video. Then take action to ensure these courageous women can continue their important work.

Threatened women defenders hold up candles in Colombia
Indigenous and campesina women rights defenders hold up candles during a meeting with Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security. All of the women have received death threats for their work. Photo: NOMADESC

Support the call by women human rights defenders in Colombia for an overhaul of the police to prevent more gender-based violence. Sign our Colombia: Protect Peaceful Protest, Reform Repressive Police E-Action.

Join calls on Colombia for coordinated action with women human rights defenders to protect them, amid a new wave of dangerous threats. Sign our Keep Hope in Colombia Alive E-Action:

Be a multiplier by sharing these action and inviting others to sign them!

Afghan women protest against a new Taliban ban on women accessing university education on December 22, 2022, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo by Stringer/Getty Images)

Act in solidarity with Afghan women

The Taliban, as the de facto authorities in Afghanistan, have shown complete disregard for their human rights obligations under international law. Discriminatory restrictions on the rights of women and girls, with the apparent aim of completely erasing them from public life, have intensified in recent months. Women protesting against the Taliban’s harsh policies face forced disappearance, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and other mistreatment. 

Manizha Seddiqi, Afghan Huma Rights Defender
Human rights defender Manizha Seddiqi was sentenced to two years in prison by a Taliban court. Amnesty International is calling for her immediate and unconditional release.

Manizha Seddiqi, The Afghan Activist

Human rights defender Manizha Seddiqi was forcibly disappeared on October 9, 2023, and was later found in Taliban custody. She is currently detained without charge in Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul and denied access to legal representation and regular family visits. In late February 2024, Manizha Seddiqi was sentenced to two years in prison by a Taliban court. Join Amnesty International in calling for her immediate and unconditional release. 

WATCH VIDEO: Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

The international community cannot continue to take a ‘business as usual’ approach to the human rights situation in Afghanistan. Call on Canada and the international community to press the Taliban de-facto authorities to respect and guarantee protection of human rights in Afghanistan. 

Governments around the world must put the rights of women and girls at the very centre of their foreign policy for Afghanistan. They must take their lead from Afghan women’s rights defenders, and insist, for example, on women’s and girls’ equal access to education, to employment and to essential services, without discrimination.

– Agnès Callamard, Amnesty’s Secretary General

What to do on International Women’s Day 2024 in Canada?

Fortunately, there are countless ways you can get involved in International Women’s Day in Canada! Here are some ideas:

  • Wear something purple to show your support for International Women’s Day
  • Donate to Amnesty International Canada to support women in Canada and around the world.
  • Volunteer to help raise awareness with Amnesty International Canada.
  • Share inspirational stories of women on social media on International Women’s Day and tag @AmnestyNow #IWD2024 #InternationalWomensDay #WomensDay
  • For a full list of actions you can take to support equal opportunities for women and celebrate International Women’s Day, visit What You Can Do.

By participating in any of these International Women’s Day activities—or even if you raise awareness about them—you will help ensure that women everywhere receive the recognition and respect they deserve!

Beyond Roe Coalition and MassNOW rally on Boston Common in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade in Boston on June 24, 2022. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Join Amnesty International on International Women’s Day 2024

International Women’s Day is more than just a celebration – it’s a global day for us to unite as powerful allies striving to achieve true gender equality worldwide. No matter how you recognize this day, remember that every action counts towards creating a better future for all women everywhere!

So we hope you will join Amnesty this International Women’s Day and act now for the rights of women! #IWD2024 #GenderEqualityNow

Webinar: Lets Talk About Safer Online Spaces: Addressing Technology Facilitated Gender Based Violence

In honour of Women’s History Month and Transgender Day of Visibility, join Amnesty International Canada for an engaging discussion about technology facilitated gender-based violence.

The webinar will explore the nuanced forms of digital violence and misogyny experienced by women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities, explore strategies for fostering safer online spaces and chart pathways toward collective action, solidarity, and resilience.

Lets honour the stories, struggles and voices of women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ activists and advocates who are tirelessly working to create safer and more equitable digital spaces.

Date: Thursday, March 28, 2024

Time: 7-8:30 pm EST

Where: Online via Zoom

Diverse Stories, Shared Struggles: Celebrating Women and LGBTI+ Communities Globally

Join the AI Canada Gender Rights Specialized Team for a vibrant celebration of International Women’s Day!

In recognition of the diverse voices and experiences of women and LGBTI+ individuals around the world, we’re hosting an inspiring online event featuring readings from acclaimed authors representing countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Colombia, Palestine, Canada and more.

This powerful gathering will showcase the resilience, creativity, and strength of women and gender-diverse individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. Through their words, we’ll explore themes of empowerment, resistance, and solidarity, amplifying voices that are often on the margins. Whether you’re passionate about gender equality, human rights, or simply eager to hear captivating stories from around the globe, this event promises to be a thought-provoking and uplifting experience.

Save the date and join us as we celebrate the achievements and contributions of women and LGBTI+ communities worldwide.

Together, let’s honor their stories, uplift their voices, and continue our journey towards a more just and equitable world for all.

Date: Saturday, March 23rd, 2024 Time: 3:30-5:00PM (EST).

Where: Online via zoom. 

Register now to secure your spot and be part of this momentous celebration of International Women’s Day!

Pro-choice activists participate in a “flash-mob” demonstration outside of the US Supreme Court on January 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. – January 22 marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that established the constitutional right to abortion care in the United States. (Photo by Alex Edelman / AFP) (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Webinar on Reproductive Justice

Amnesty International in the Americas invites you to join us for a webinar on reproductive justice on 6 March at 15:00 PM ET.

In 2023 Amnesty International released a report (which can be found in Spanish here and in English here) documenting how those defending abortion rights are under attack, including activists, advocates, educators, clinic escorts, accompaniers, doulas, and healthcare workers.

These defenders are exposed to stigmatization, physical and verbal attacks, intimidation and threats, and are criminalized through unjust prosecutions, investigations and arrests. Despite hostility and lack of recognition, they continue their work, helping countless women, girls, and all people with the capacity to become pregnant, including men and non-binary people, access their right to abortion.

The webinar titled Unstoppable Movement: Fight for Reproductive and sexual rights in the Americas will feature the following speakers who are defending abortion rights:

  • Yarí Vale, Campaign for Free, Safe and Accessible Abortions, Puerto Rico 
  • Marcela Correa, Amnesty International Brazil  
  • Jennifer Pepper, Executive Director, CHOICES: Memphis Center for Reproductive Health 
  • Miranda Ruiz, Juan Domingo Perón de Tartagal hospital in Salta, Argentina 

We will hear about the threats that these defenders face and learn more about how we can support them! The event will take place on Zoom and we will provide simultaneous interpretation into Spanish, English, and Portuguese. 

Deepen your knowledge of women’s rights

If you’d like to learn more about the rights of women globally and in Canada this International Women’s Day, you might be interested in reading the following books.

  • Samra Habib’s We Have Always Been Here is an essential memoir on gender identity and faith, queer sexuality, feminist spirit, and humanity. The accompanying Discussion Guide is also helpful for book clubs marking International Women’s Day.
  • Farzana Doctor’s Seven is a powerful and captivating novel about the cultural practice of khatna or female genital mutilation (FGM). For more information and resources on ending female genital mutilation, visit the End FGM Canada Network.

Top Photo: People holding Palestinian flags and portraits of Palestinian women attend Toronto’s annual International Women’s Day (IWD) march on March 2, 2024, in Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu via Getty Images)