This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating women across the country and around the world who are using food as a tool for change in their communities -- and changing the way we think about food.
We’re also thinking about the many economic and social barriers women face in accessing the food they need. Like the fact that a woman in Canada still earns on average only 75 cents to her male counterpart’s dollar. And that women make up the majority of minimum wage workers in Canada – more than 600,000 women earned minimum wage in 2016, 40 per cent more than the number of men – and are less likely than men to be employed in full-time positions. These inequalities have lasting effects: 16% of senior women are living below the poverty line, a higher incidence than men in the same age group.
Mothers, and single mothers in particular, also face many barriers to putting food on the table. Women are more likely to be a single parent caring for a child or children on a single income: More than 84% of children in single-parent families are parented by a single mom. While 12 per cent of Canadian households experienced food insecurity in 2014, this rate nearly tripled, to 33.5 per cent, in households headed by single mothers. Even after their kids are grown, research shows that 13.8 per cent of single mothers were food insecure, compared to 5.2 per cent of couples without children or 7.4 per cent of elderly individuals living alone.
StatsCan data released in late February points to the role of the Canada Child Benefit in reducing child poverty across Canada. But the gender pay gap and inequality of opportunity still leave many women at a disadvantage, and at the risk of experiencing higher rates of poverty and food insecurity.
So, what can we do? Well, we can continue to invest and expand existing universal programs like Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to ensure that they’re keeping up with the cost of living. We can invest in long-talked-about universal programs like national childcare and school food programs, that can reduce financial barriers and help more mothers put food on the table. And we can all push our elected representatives and our business leaders to bring good jobs to our communities, shore up labour legislation, and insist on pay equity in the workplace.
This International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate women, but let’s not forget that we all have a responsibility to push for the policies and practices that will ensure that women have equal opportunity to thrive. Start by joining a Women’s Day March in your community!