By Sandy Bello
As International Women’s Day approaches on March 8, I think about the achievements and reflect on some of the barriers that I experienced as a Canadian working woman.
After a recent visit with my 91 year-old mother, I thought about the differences in our experiences as women growing up, going to school, working and raising a family. I got an amazing education in a non-traditional field and a good unionized job that provided benefits, including leave provisions and job security. But childcare was a big challenge for both of us. My dad worked hard in a low-paying job and my mom simply couldn’t work until we were all in school.
So, we got by on a very meager budget.
As for me, I lost so much sleep worrying about finding quality, safe and affordable childcare for three kids, including twins at a time when my partner and I were struggling to meet our high-interest mortgage payments!
Since those frenzied, stressful and costly days, great improvements have been made in parental leave and other benefits. But there is still no national childcare system. Families continue to struggle with child care, all while almost 70% of mothers with kids under 5 are working. The current federal program, the Universal Child Care Benefit, just doesn’t cut it for most parents. Canada lags behind other countries as they continue to develop their early-childhood education and care systems.
That’s why Canada’s labour movement is calling on all of us to make childcare an election issue. Did you know that the last federal election debate on women’s issues was in 1984?! The NDP and the Green Party have agreed to participate in a debate on women’s issues, but the Liberal Party of Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada and the Bloc Québécois have not. Campaigns are underway including Vote Child Care 2015 and Up For Debate.
I am reaffirming my resolve to take action to move women’s issues and childcare forward, not backwards. Let’s all of us make this a reality and let’s hope that next year’s International Women’s Day will give us another reason to celebrate.
Sandy Bello is the regional representative for human rights in Ontario. This article was written as part of our union’s member journalism program. If you’d like to find out more, click here – to pitch a story or for any questions, please send an email to email@example.com.