Fragile Freedoms: Series Closes With A Women’s Rights Lecture

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Fragile Freedoms lecture series wraps up on May 14 at 7:30 p.m., with a final lecture on “Women and the Struggle for Human Rights” given by Germaine Greer. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has been proud to serve as a venue for these lectures, in cooperation with the University of Manitoba and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Germaine Greer is internationally renowned as a feminist thinker – perhaps the most provocative feminist thinker of the 20th century. She is also a theorist, academic and journalist who holds an emeritus professorship in English Literature and Comparative Studies at the University of Warwick. Her ideas about gender and sexuality have provoked controversy since the release of her 1970 book The Female Eunuch. Some of Germaine Greer’s other works are: Sex and Destiny: the Politics of Human Fertility; The Change: Women, Aging and the Menopause; and Shakespeare’s Wife.

Women’s rights is a topic that will be explored at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, with stories related to women’s rights in Canada and around the world featured in virtually all of the Museum’s galleries. The following are just a few examples of the many ways that the Museum will encourage dialogue and reflection on the struggle for women’s rights.

The Museum will introduce visitors to the struggle for women’s rights in Canada. They will encounter the story of Emily Murphy, the first female police magistrate in Alberta. Along with four other women, she successfully challenged the idea that women were not considered persons under Canadian law. 

Another example is the Bread and Roses March of June 1995. It was organized by the Fédération des femmes du Québec to protest against poverty which weighs most heavily on women. 

The Museum will also explore labour issues such as the wage disparity between men and women in Canada, and the struggle for paid maternity leave for women.

Black and white photo of a woman  holding a sign that reads Working women have a right to paid maternity leave.
Women demonstrating for getting the paid maternity leave right. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)

The CMHR will address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the over-representation of Indigenous women in the Canadian prison system, and the fight against gender discrimination under Canada’s Indian Act.

Important legal cases will be featured including one on women’s rights, where we will learn more about Tawney Meiorin, who was employed for three years as a firefighter before she lost her job for failing one of several newly introduced fitness tests which were found to be discriminatory against women.

The Museum will also raise awareness about the fight for women’s rights around the globe. Here are a few examples. 

The practice of military sexual slavery of women will be addressed. During the Second World War in Asia, the Japanese Imperial Army used the name “Comfort Women” to disguise this form of slavery and human trafficking. The problem of military sexual slavery continues today.

Four seated individuals in a row; one speaks, holding a microphone, while the others listen intently.
Lola Fidencia David, a “comfort women” survivor from Philippines at the Winnipeg Chineese Culture and Community Centre during a press conference. Photo: Dan Harper / CMHR

Our galleries will also contain a segment on the brutal discrimination to which Afghan women were subjected daily, and to which they continue to be subjected under Taliban rule. 

The Museum also introduces the international laws put in place to protect women’s rights, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). 

Alongside these international laws, our exhibits will tell the stories of grassroots struggles for women’s rights around the world, such as the global “Ring the Bell” campaign to stop domestic violence against women, and the “Right to Drive” movement in Saudi Arabia, where women go out in their cars to protest against the driving ban for women.

This lecture is now sold out. However, as with the other talks in this series, it will be recorded by CBC radio and broadcast on Radio One’s Ideas program. The Greer Lecture will air on May 28, 2014.

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