rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

On International Women's Day, remember women living with disabilities too

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Photo: Bonnie Brayton

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

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.

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.

Equity first!

Bonnie Brayton has been the National Executive Director of DAWN-RAFH Canada (DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada) for almost 10 years.

This blog originally appeared on The Huffington Post Canada.

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Photo: Bonnie Brayton

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.