Women march through St. John's with equality on their minds

More than 100 women, men and children gathered in the freezing cold in St. John's on Saturday to march through downtown in the name of equality.

March part of co-ordinated events worldwide

Amy and Pam Young march Saturday as a mother-daughter combo for equality. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

More than 100 women, men and children gathered in the freezing cold in St. John's on Saturday to march through downtown in the name of equality.

The march was part of a co-ordinated effort across the world, including more than 40 cities in Canada.

In the crowd was Pam Young and her 17-year-old daughter, Amy, holding signs calling for a strong voice for all women.

I think in the world today there is just not enough recognition of women and how powerful we can be.- Amy Young

"I'm raising an almost 18-year-old daughter, and I think there's no better gift I can give her than be a strong representative for herself and for other women," Pam said.

She sees a bright future in her daughter, not just for herself but for the change she can effect to help others.

"I think in the world today there is just not enough recognition of women and how powerful we can be," Amy said.

One of those powerful women on hand was Mary Shortall, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour.

In a speech before the march began, Shortall pointed to the gender wage gap in the province — recognized by Statistics Canada as one of the worst in the country. A 2014 survey shows it was 66 cents for every dollar made by a man. 

Shortall said that number has now risen to 69 cents, but there is a long way to go.

Equal pay for equal work still a problem in N.L.

Valerie Carruthers, with the Women's Economic Council, said equal pay for equal work in certain occupations is still a problem in the province.

"I'm marching for equality for everyone, but particularly women," she said. "A lot of people feel women have arrived and have an equal seat at the table, but they don't yet."

The push for equality has come a long way, she said, but the remaining distance will have to be covered with the co-operation of everyone, she said.

"Men, women, unions — we need everyone to support that."

A crowd fills the front of St. John's City Hall on Saturday as part of co-ordinated marches for women's rights across the world. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

The march left City Hall at 2 p.m. and headed down Water Street, up Prescott Street and returned to the starting point.

The mention of City Hall drew cheers during speeches before the march, as Shortall gave a shoutout to the five women who won seats in the last election.

The march comes on the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration as president, and the anniversary of 500,000 people marching on Washington in protest.

The organizer of the St. John's march, Deenaree Voelker, is an American who moved to Newfoundland nearly five years ago.

She was marching for many reasons, but especially to show solidarity with fellow American mothers who do not have access to health care.

Marching for health care

During her first pregnancy, Voelker and her husband had just moved back to the United States and were looking for jobs. Had it not been for the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare — they'd have been uninsured.

With that bill under attack by the Trump administration, Voelker's mind was on women like her, and what they will be forced to do.

"I know what protecting medical-care services means to me."