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International Women's Day: What Work Needs To Happen To Make Women's Lives Better?

Indigenous women, women of colour, and queer women are less likely to enjoy safety and income equality.

International Women's Day is today, and it's true that there are many things for women to celebrate in 2018.

In Canada, half of our cabinet ministers are female. In the United States, women are expressing interest in running for office in unprecedented numbers, and in late 2017, several secured wins in unexpected parts of the country.

Globally, extreme poverty — which is more likely to affect women — has been cut by half since 1990, according to the United Nations.

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But there is also a lot of work to be done, in Canada and abroad, which doesn't negate the progress that has been made. There's no level of gendered poverty or violence or health-care discrimination that should be written off as OK, even if other important gains have been made.

And when Indigenous women, women of colour, queer women, and trans women are still less likely to enjoy safety and income equality, things still need to be pushed forward.

What does that work look like? Here are some important places to start, in Canada and around the globe.

1. Comparing hourly wages, Canadian women earn an average of 87 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the Canadian Women's Foundation. If you compare full-time wages or overall earnings, the wage gap is even larger.

This gap exists for several reasons, including that women are more likely to work part-time and that traditionally "female" jobs often pay less, but some of it can be attributed to plain old discrimination.

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The gap is even wider for Indigenous women and women of colour, according to Pimatisiwin, and for transgender women, according to University of Toronto research.

2. Even in a wealthy country like ours, 1.5 million women live on a low income, according to the Canadian Women's Foundation. As with the gender wage gap, Indigenous women and women of colour are more likely to be poor in Canada, as are women with disabilities, single senior women, and female immigrants.

And half of trans people in Ontario earn less than $15,000 a year despite nearly three-quarters having post-secondary education, according to the Trans PULSE survey.

3. The Canada Health Act guarantees access to health services, and in Canada abortion is a legal and funded service, which means women should have access to and coverage for abortion care. But the reality is different for many Canadian women, according to the National Abortion Federation.

Women in small communities, rural areas, or the North often have to travel great distances to access abortion services, usually at their own expense. And Newfoundland and Labrador still does not provide any coverage for Mifegymiso (an abortion-inducing drug), despite only having abortion services in St. John's.

4. Violence against women and girls in Canada continues to be a serious societal problem, despite overall progress in its reduction over recent decades. Women are 11 times more likely than men to be sexually victimized, according to Statistics Canada data, and three times more likely to be stalked.

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Women are more likely than men to be victims of intimate partner violence. Indigenous women are more likely to be victims of violence in Canada compared to non-Indigenous women, both spousal violence and otherwise.

5. The majority of the world's poor are women according to Oxfam. Globally, women earn less for their work, are less likely to have legally protected work, do twice as much unpaid care work, and work longer hours.

Increasing economic equality for women would reduce poverty for everyone, Oxfam says, and gender inequality in the economy costs women in developing countries $9 trillion ever year.

6. More than 300,000 women die annually because of maternal causes, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) — and most of those deaths could be prevented with better care or medical resources.

A woman in a developing country is 33 times more likely to die from maternal-related causes than one in a developed country.

7. An estimated 25 million unsafe abortions occur around the world every year, according to the WHO —that's 45 per cent of all abortions.

A lack of access to safe and reliable contraception, and to safe abortion care, can have serious health consequences for women including death — and death from unsafe abortion and its complication was most likely in regions where most abortions happen in these circumstances, because of restrictions and lack of access.

8. Trans women around the world are at increased risk of violence and death, and that is true in developed countries as well. The Human Rights Campaign in the United States tracks fatal violence against trans people, and 2017 had the highest toll so far.

Research is limited, but some suggests that trans people may be at higher risk of domestic violence. And there are many countries in the world where homosexuality and transgender expression remain illegal and harshly punished.

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