Hundreds take to downtown Toronto to celebrate International Women’s Day

Hundreds of women and supporters took to the streets of Toronto on Saturday to celebrate women’s achievements and demand equal rights for women across the globe. 

For this year’s International Women’s Day, organizers touted the theme “No one is free until we are all free” to highlight the discrepancy in women’s rights when it comes to wages, education and safety around the world. 

“In Canada, we are like very fortunate that we can actually march like this,” said Ania Poradzisz.

“My dream, and I think many people’s dream, will be that one day, all women around the world … would feel comfortable doing whatever they want to do, walking on the streets, travelling by themselves, going to school, making their own choice in life.”

A woman speaks into a mic.
Ania Poradzisz said she feels fortunate to live in Canada, where she could march and celebrate International Women’s Day. She hopes women around the world get to say the same about their countries. (Spencer Gallican-Lowe/CBC)

International Women’s Day events were held across the province Saturday. In downtown Toronto, community leaders, labour groups and supporters gathered, danced and chanted during a rally and march. Spadina-Fort York coun. Ausma Malik said it’s important for politicians to observe the day and act on the issues being raised.

“Our fates are tied when we do improve wages when we do improve access to public services, when we do invest in housing and child care as a city and as a country,” she said.

“It’s not just women, it’s communities, it’s families, it’s whole cities that do better.”

Women, girls in Gaza top of mind

In this year’s parade, women caught in the crossfire of conflict were top of mind for many. For women like Gail Fernando, she was thinking about women in places like Gaza, where women and children accounted for about 70 per cent of the reported death toll in 2023, according to the Gaza Health Ministry’s figures.

“I think there is still a fight that we need to have for equality for women. And we are calling for peace in the world, and a ceasefire in the Middle East,” she said.

Protestor Siram Tortumlu said it’s important to protest for women’s rights and for Palestinian women at the same time. Women in Gaza don’t have access to safe and stable medical care — particularly before, during and after giving birth — and also don’t have regular access to menstruation products, she said.

“Women and girls are forgotten. So we’re really out here trying to bring light to the unique struggles that they have,” said Tortumlu.

A woman holding a sign in support of Palestine talks into a microphone. Other people behind her hold similar signs.
International Women’s Day protestor Siram Tortumlu said for this year’s event, she’s raising awareness about the lack of menstruation products and access to safe medical care for women in Gaza due to the ongoing conflict. (Ken Townsend/CBC)

Safeguard LGBTQ+ and bodily rights: activist

Susan Gapka, a community and trans activist, said it’s important for Canadians to safeguard the strides in LGBTQ+ rights that have been made in this country, particularly as a “global phenomena” of rising hatred against LGBTQ+ people all over the world threatens to undo progress.

She points to laws targeting trans people and LGBTQ people in Alberta, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, and also nodded to south of the border, where several states are passing “anti-trans” laws and restricting women’s bodily autonomy when it comes to access to abortion and contraception.

A woman speaks into a mic.
Susan Gapka, a community and trans activist, said it’s important to safeguard the strides in LGBTQ+ rights in Canada. (Ken Townsend/Radio-Canada)

Just last month, federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said “biological males” should be banned from women’s sports, change rooms and bathrooms.

“As a trans elder I can see how far we’ve come. When I was a youngster, homosexuality was criminalized,” said Gapka, adding she fears for LGBTQ+ and trans youth.

“We had achieved these successes,” she said. “We need to be united — trans women, racialized women, Indigenous women in the struggle, because they’re gonna come for all of us eventually.”

Performer Maryem Tollar said she’s participated in numerous International Women’s Day events throughout the years. No matter the issue of the day, she said one thing remains clear:

“For decades and decades and decades, women have been trying to help women around the world, even when no one else is paying attention or listening,” said Tollar.


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