How many Canadians today will be thinking about women with disabilities when they think about women's equality?
In Saskatchewan the theme for this year's International Women's Day is Resilience: The Strength of Women Living with Disabilities. Not surprising perhaps from a province full of resilient folks, but surprising because the acknowledgement, understanding and support for women with disabilities and our leadership is still sadly too rare.
The millions of women and girls with disabilities in Canada and the hundreds of millions of our sisters around the world will receive no such acknowledgement.
Women with disabilities in Canada are the poorest, living far below the poverty line. Our unemployment rates are between 50 and 75 per cent, depending where we live in Canada. Women with disabilities experience violence at higher rates than non-disabled women -- up to four times higher.
Women with disabilities, including yours truly, have had it with the message of equality. News flash: equality is not the means by which all women become equal. Equality is the outcome of practicing equity.
The over-representation of women with disabilities in Canadian prisons speaks not to our pre-disposition to crime, but to the failure of our leaders in getting to the root causes of our oppression -- poverty and violence.
An online search shows the international theme for IWD 2016 is Pledge for Parity. There's a photograph of a white, able-bodied woman on their home page.
When I looked up parity, equality was given as a synonym. Here in Canada our federal government's slogan for IWD is "Women's empowerment leads to women's equality." It is accompanied by an image of a group of able-bodied women all supporting each other in a pyramid.
Women with disabilities, including yours truly, have had it with the message of equality. News flash to politicians, journalists, feminists and ableists everywhere: equality is not the means by which all women become equal. Equality is the outcome of practicing equity. Equity, however, means more than treating people the same, it means accommodating differences.
I hope that the Government of Canada, our minister for status of women and other provincial and territorial leaders along with governments around the world will take note of the leadership shown by premier Wall.
For the IWD celebrations in Saskatchewan this year, Zelda Rempel, DAWN Canada's board member from Saskatoon, is not just invited to the party -- she will be delivering a keynote address and she will be honoured by the other women in her community.
When we celebrate the resiliency of women with disabilities we are acknowledging that the inequality experienced by women with disabilities is not the same at that of other women.
"Women living with disabilities personify resilience in communities throughout Saskatchewan," Social Services Minister and the minister responsible for the status of women Donna Harpauer said. "These role models and leaders are strong, determined and courageous in the face of physical, environmental, social and cultural challenges."
Women with disabilities, Indigenous women, immigrant and racialized women, LGBQT women -- all of us "other" women must be at the centre of any messages about women's equality and must be at the centre of any strategy that purports to lead to equality between men and women.
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In this Nov. 19, 2012 photo, twins Abigail and Noah Thomas, 8, ride on the motorized wheelchair of their mother, Jenn Thomas, on their way to a school book fair in Arlington Heights, Ill. Thomas, a 36-year-old mom who has cerebral palsy, says her twins occasionally complain about having to do a few extra chores around the house to help her. Abigail nods and smiles upon hearing this, but says for the most part, their lives are "kind of normal." For her, having a mom with a disability is just how it is, she said. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)
In this Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 photo, Noah Thomas, 8, rides on the motorized wheelchair of his mother, Jenn Thomas, on their way to a school book fair in Arlington Heights, Ill. Jenn Thomas was born with cerebral palsy. A report from the National Council on Disability found that 6.1 million children, about 10 percent of the overall U.S. population, have parents with some sort of disability. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)
In this Nov. 14, 2012 photo, Carrie Ann Lucas, third from right, sits with her adopted children for a photograph by volunteer photographer Jill Kaplan, left, during a party celebrating National Adoption Day at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colo. Lucas says she's had to deal with several investigations by child welfare officials that she attributed to bias linked to her disabilities. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this Nov. 14, 2012 photo, Anthony, 11, the intellectually-disabled son of Carrie Ann Lucas, gets a pinch on the cheek from his mother during a party held for newly-adopted children and their families on National Adoption Day at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colo., on the day Anthony officially became her son. Carrie Ann Lucas, herself disabled, is the mother of four disabled adopted children. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this Nov. 14, 2012 photo, Carrie Ann Lucas, right, mother of four disabled adopted children, holds up a mirror for her daughter, Adrianne, 13, at their home in Windsor, Colo., before going on an outing. Carrie Ann Lucas herself uses a power wheelchair and is reliant on a ventilator due to a form of muscular dystrophy. In diverse and profound ways, the millions of Americans with disabilities have gained rights and opportunities since Congress passed landmark legislation on their behalf in 1990. Advocates say barriers and bias still abound, however, when it comes to one basic human right: To be a parent. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this Nov. 14, 2012 photo, Brooke Croteau, an assistant to Carrie Ann Lucas, a disabled mother of four disabled adopted children, helps Adrianne, 13, one of Lucas' children, into a vehicle as the family leaves their home in Windsor, Colo., to attend an adoption hearing. Anthony, 11, the intellectually-disabled adopted son of Lucas, is pictured at right. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this Nov. 14, 2012 photo, Carrie Ann Lucas, center, sits with her adopted daughter, Adrianne, 13, as her adopted son Anthony, 11, walks past them as he gets himself ready in the morning, at their home in Windsor, Colo. Carrie Ann Lucas uses a power wheelchair and is reliant on a ventilator due to a form of muscular dystrophy. She is a single mother of four adopted children, ages 22, 17, 13 and 11, all of whom also have disabilities, including two who use wheelchairs and three with intellectual disabilities. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this Nov. 14, 2012 photo, Adrianne, 13, the disabled adopted daughter of Carrie Ann Lucas, exits a court where a judge finalized the adoption for one of her siblings at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colo., on National Adoption Day. Carrie Ann Lucas says the prejudice she encountered prompted her to go to law school, to better defend her own rights and those of other disabled parents. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this Nov. 14, 2012 photo, three of the four disabled adopted children of Carrie Ann Lucas, who is also disabled, prepare to leave their home in Windsor, Colo., on a car outing. From left are: Heather, 22; Asiza, 17; and Anthony, 11. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this Nov. 14, 2012 photo, Carrie Ann Lucas, right, applies makeup for her daughter Adrianne, 13, at their home in Windsor, Colo., to prepare for a trip to an adoption hearing for her son, Anthony. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
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