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Women’s History Month: How will you claim your place?

October is Women’s History Month in Canada and the theme this year is Claim Your Place — a bold call to action for women across Canada to keep pushing for inclusion and gender equality. It is a time to remember the achievements of other women in history and to support those around us. Women’s History Month is celebrated in March in the United States, Australia and some other countries and often coincides with International Women’s Day on March 8. However, in Canada, the month of October is reserved in recognition of the achievements of Women, coinciding with Person’s Day, which is celebrated on October 18.

Person’s Day is in recognition of the Person’s case of 1927, when five prominent Canadian women took on the Supreme Court of Canada and asked the following question: Does the word “person” in section 24 of the B.N.A Act include women? After five weeks, the Supreme Court said they were not. This answer was not satisfactory to the women who would later be known as the Famous Five. They took their case to the Privy Council of Great Britain, which at the time was the highest court in Canada. On Oct.18 1929, the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain answered the appeal by saying the word person should, in fact, include women.

This ultimately changed the status of women in Canada, giving them the right to be appointed to the Senate of Canada and increased participation in political and public life, including voting rights. The Famous Five were women that actively looked for reform movements in a quest for changing equality. Their names were Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, and Henrietta Muir Edwards — they were journalists, magistrates and politicians. As Canada celebrates 150 years, this Person’s Day will also carry the #claimyourplace theme and will recognize women who have helped to shape Canadian democracy. There will be the annual Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Person’s Case that will honour Canadians who advance gender equality.

The awards have been given out since 1979 and include a long list of past recipients from various places across Canada. This year, there are five recipients, including someone from the youth category (age range of 15- 30). These women have made an outstanding impact to the lives of women and girls in meeting the goals of gender equality in Canada.

Over the past 150 years, countless woman have made their mark in history and found their voice. They have fought against inequality, helped reduce the pay wage gap, argued for better health services and for reproductive rights. Throughout all of these struggles, women have lifted each other up, helping one another reach their full potential. One can only hope this continues over the next decade.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a self-proclaimed feminist responsible for the country’s first gender-equal cabinet, issued a statement for Women’s History Month in which he remarked, “Our government is working hard to advance gender equality and ensure that all people, no matter their gender, have the opportunity to realize their full potential. We are working to strengthen women’s leadership in business and government and to provide young women with the opportunities they need to advance their careers.”

Throughout the month of October, honour those women and girls who inspire you by using the hashtag #ClaimYourPlace . Post inspirational photos, videos or stories on social media and share them with Women’s Post!

Let us know how you will #ClaimYourPlace in the comments below

What do you think of the Muslim ‘girl in offensive clothing’?

It was the snap seen around the world. Just six seconds long, but enough to change a woman’s life forever.

On Monday, a woman was casually seen walking in the desert streets in a short skirt and a black crop top. It is summer after all, and she probably wanted to stay cool in the heat. However, she was in Saudi Arabia, a country where there are strict laws regarding how women dress and feminine identity.

As the woman smiled and coyly looked at the camera before sauntering on, this visual opened up an entire investigation into her identity, her whereabouts, and eventually her arrest.

The girl in the video has since been detained by the Saudi police and a special investigation is being held for the “girl in offensive clothing.” The case is being handled by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, also known as the religious police.

So why is this act considered offensive?

Saudi Arabia is a strict muslim country and there are certain rules that women  must obey or risk being punished. While in public, women are expected to be covered from head to toe, literally. They are required to wear something called an abaya ( a long black robe), a hijab ( a headscarf), and finally a veil to cover their faces, where normally only the eyes are visible.

In other muslim countries, the rules of dress may vary and some places in Dubai have signs posted asking their customers to wear respectful clothing , where shoulders and knees should be covered. There is also a law in Dubai which prohibits men and women from drinking alcohol, kissing, holding hands, and, most obviously, having sex in public.

Each county comes with their specific set of rules that residents have to abide by or risk being punished. Doesn’t the same go for Canada? Public sex is illegal in this country as well as displays of indecent exposure. There are also various laws concerning alcohol. In Quebec, you can easily purchase alcohol at your local grocery or corner store, but in Ontario, there are designated places to purchase alcohol such as the Beer Store and the LCBO.

My point is that every country, or even provinces, have different laws to govern and while the rules of Saudi Arabia are deemed oppressive towards women, there will always be a debate whether to support or punish. Another case making the headlines in Saudi Arabia, for example, relates to women being able to drive in the country. It is illegal for women to drive due to deep religious beliefs in which female drivers are said to undermine social values of the country. In 2011, there was a campaign in protest entitled “Women2Drive” where women were encouraged to show themselves driving on social media.

There are still various groups that advocate for female rights in Saudi Arabia, as women are still required to have male guardianship for government services, including applying for a passport or travelling abroad. A woman must get consent from her husband, father, or other male relative.

As for the woman in in the short snap, she continues to be the subject of a questionable debate, highlighting the issues of women’s rights in strict muslim countries. By the way, the viral video of that woman was shared without her knowledge — not cool friend, not cool !