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International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - March 21

What is it? 

Forty-six years have passed since the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa, where 69 black protestors were shot and killed and one hundred and eighty were wounded by white people during a peaceful protest against apartheid on March 21st. The United Nations declared that day, March 21st, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and called on the international community not only to commemorate that tragedy, but also to work together to fight racism wherever it exists.

Racism still exists. People worldwide experience systemic racism and oppression, direct or indirect racism including acts of violence, hate crimes and harassment. March 21st is a day for us all to remember and reflect. Each of us has an important role and responsibility to build a world free from racism.

Racism and oppression in all its forms create ongoing barriers to women’s equality and create conditions that make women experiencing them more vulnerable to all forms of violence against women.

Some facts:

  • Women continue to be under housed; discrimination by landlords, arbitrary and racist treatment by developers and government is often not challenged. Low-income housing is so scarce that women in marginalized communities most hit by poverty and lack of access to jobs are forced to live in sub-standard housing conditions.
  • Women of colour and immigrant women are concentrated in the service and manufacturing sectors and in part-time, unstable and low-paid contract work. Many are highly educated but hold credentials not recognized in Canada or not used because they are not hired in their field of skill.
  • Sponsored immigrant and refugee women, mail-order brides, and domestic live-in caregivers are especially vulnerable to abusive relationships, according to the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW).
  • Immigrant and Aboriginal women sex trade workers, often forced into prostitution as a result of colonialism, historic racism and poverty, are at high risk of violence.
  • Women of colour, Aboriginal women and immigrant/refugee women may not seek help with criminal violence as a result of systemic racial profiling, lack of response within their communities or fear of consequences within the Immigration system.

What can I do? 

  • Oppose racism and oppression that denies women equal access.
  • Advocate for increased representation of women and marginalized communities within all community systems.
  • Pressure media outlets to be representative of the community.
  • Provide information to others around you—in your workplace, school, or any other community space where you can.
  • Challenge international economic and political structures that foster systemic racism and oppression of women around the world.
  • For white women, it is also important to look at how you benefit from racism, and actively work towards eliminating it.
  • Write to your local MPs and MPPs and ask them what they are doing to end racism and violence against all women in Ontario.


We can all work to challenge each other, take risks and be courageous in the fight to end racism. Ending racism and discrimination benefits everyone!

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