Thousands braved the cold in Toronto on Saturday, March 11 for the annual International Women’s Day March, organized by Women Working with Immigrant Women and the International Women’s Day Organizing Committee.

The festivities began at 11:00 am with a rally at the University of Toronto Medical Sciences Building and ended at 2:00 pm, when a fair at Ryerson University began.

“The only way we can change the world is changing people’s minds and actions,” said Catherine Brooks, an Indigenous elder who spoke at the ceremony. “[We must] respect each other’s histories and causes. We’re together in this. Together we can change things.”

Brooks’ words echoed the general sentiment of the Women’s Day rally, and she was met with great applause from the crowd.

The theme of this year’s event was “Stop the hate. Unite the fight. Build the resistance. Unity is power.”

The Medical Sciences Building auditorium was packed with supporters of different ages and cultural backgrounds — all ready to march and cheer together.

Speakers at the event discussed a variety of women’s issues, including Indigenous women and the Idle No More movement, the treatment of immigrant women with a special focus on Muslim women, the Black rights movement, women’s wages and pension rights, and the fight against sexual assault. Participants in the morning rally were greeted with a variety of pamphlets outlining the history of the struggle for the emancipation of women, the fight against misogyny and racism, and women’s work.

Victoria Bell, a student activist, echoed the “Unity is power” theme: “Together we can create a culture of consent,” she said, “Together we will fight and end rape culture.”

International Women’s Day began on March 19, 1911 in Europe. In 1977, after years of organized women’s movements, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 8 International Women’s Day. It has since become a globally recognized day and is even an official holiday in many countries.

Toronto’s march was one of many international rallies and celebrations. New York City received considerable media attention after installing a statue of a girl staring down the Wall Street Bull in honour of International Women’s Day.

While the “Fearless Girl” statue will only be around until Wednesday, organizers of the Toronto Women’s Day hope the message will be more permanent.

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