Archive

February 2017

Browsing

Empty houses are driving up Toronto real estate market

People often speculate on reasons why the real estate has ballooned so heavily in the last couple years in Toronto, and across Canada. Everything from foreign buyers to decreased land availability has been blamed, and Statistics Canada sheds further light on why the housing market is on high alert.

The newest 2016 census shows that Toronto alone has over 99,000 unoccupied homes in the city. These statistics results reflect that a lack of occupancy is a top housing issue in the city and is growing at the same rate as the rising price of real estate. Across Canada, the number of unoccupied homes as grown and is highest in Toronto, followed by Montreal. Vancouver is trailing in third, potentially in part due to the new foreign buyer bylaws that have come into effect.

By comparing the number of total private dwellings and the total private dwellings occupied in each city as collected in the census, it is easy to see there is an unusual difference between occupied homes and total dwellings available. In the last 10 years, the amount of unoccupied dwellings have also grown 10.5 per cent in Toronto, and the problem continues to worsen. It appears that the highest rate of non-occupancy is in the Concord area of Vaughan, which was at 35 per cent. Downtown Toronto also had more homes that weren’t being occupied, especially in the fashion district at King St. W, with 21 per cent not regularly occupied.

In this circumstance, blaming foreign buyers isn’t a viable reason because local Canadians are most often the residents to fill out the statistics report. Other factors could be AirBnB or short-term rentals to explain the unoccupied rentals, but it is becoming more clear that speculation is a big part of the reason. Homeowners are hanging onto their homes while the red hot real estate market is at its highest, and people are waiting until the city hits its peak price. These people are often known as ‘flippers’ and are unnecessarily preventing families in desperate need of housing from getting a much-needed house.

Having statistics available to highlight housing issues can provide answers to convoluted real estate issues that are often kept under wraps by stakeholders. By crunching numbers, it is easy to see why unoccupied homes are negatively contributing to the real estate bubble in the city. House flippers and speculators need to sell or rent unoccupied homes to people who need them, and housing must be made more affordable. Hopefully the government takes the necessary steps to crack down on unoccupied homes, and the real estate market can balance as a result.

Toronto city council approves budget in light of tolls

City council voted to approve a “low-tax budget”, as described by city manager Peter Wallace during his presentation on the floor. It wasn’t an easy decision, and councillors spent about 15 hours debating and arguing the minutia details of each motion presented.

At the end of the day, the budget was approved nearly as-is 27-16.

In total, Toronto homeowners can expect an increase of 2 per cent on their residential property taxes, equalling 3.29 per cent, or $90 on average per home. While some councillors tried to introduce motions to decrease or increase that number, most saw it as a compromise for homeowners.

City staff frustratingly had to explain to councillors how taxes worked and that “budgets aren’t just about numbers. They are about the reality of city services.” When councillors tried to argue for more reduction in the budget or for lower taxes, staff had to remind them that property taxes were still well below inflation, and that over the past 19 years, city council has approved a property tax at or below the rate of inflation 15 times.

“The budget is consistent with Council expense policy and service direction and remains neutral in terms of overall revenue burden as a share of the economy,” said City Manager Peter Wallace. “I encourage Council to continue to address the cost drivers for City services and agencies, and look at stable revenue options to strengthen our fiscal sustainability.”

The new budget includes some investment in Toronto Community Housing, Toronto Transit Commission, and overall capital projects. At the same time, many reductions had to be made in order to balance the budget, including dipping into reserve funds in order to accommodate an extra $2 million in street sweeping.

“Today, City Council approved a balanced, responsible budget that invests in the needs of the people who live and work in Toronto,” said Mayor Tory in a statement released around midnight. “This budget delivers significant new funding for transit, child care and housing. Through the City Building Fund, we will begin to make much-needed investments in transit expansion and major infrastructure repair.”

Critics of the 2017 budget have called it a band-aid solution. Without the introduction of new revenue tools, the city will be forced to continuously reduce services while increasing taxes. Wallace pointed out that without the options of tolls — an option the provincial government squashed last month — it will be very difficult to maintain the services within the city. Before next year’s budget, Wallace says Toronto will have to ask itself how it will replace the approximate $5 billion tolls could have brought in to fund capital projects.

King St. redesign plans put transit first

King Street is not only one of the busiest inner-city roads in Toronto, it is one of the most hectic routes in the entire country. When rush-hour hits at the end of a busy work day, walking is often faster than commuting on public transit on this street and it leaves many transit users extremely frustrated.

Luckily, the City of Toronto is taking steps to redesign King St. and make it more transit friendly. The project was announced at the Transit Alliance’s Green Cities breakfast last month.

On Monday, Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat and the Toronto planning division presented three possible options in a public consultation that was widely attended by King St. commuters. The improvements are focused around access, reliability, and speed. The project would affect King St., from Dufferin St. to River St., and is set to cost about $200,000.

The first option to focus on transit on King St. is called “Separated Lanes”. This would separate the streetcars from the vehicles by providing one lane for each going northbound and southbound. This is the least popular choice so far because it would continue to allow thorough traffic for vehicles, but only having one lane would slow car commuters substantially. This option also wouldn’t give more room to pedestrians and bike lanes wouldn’t be constructed.

The second option, which has been dubbed the favourite of the planning division, is called “Alternating Loops”. This would include a dedicated transit lane for the streetcars and an alternating lane for vehicles to have one-way access, and would change every block. This alternative would allow for the lane that isn’t being used for one-way car traffic to have pedestrian access and a dedicated cycling lane. The one-way alternating street would also give delivery vehicles and taxis access to King St., but the vehicle would be forced to turn at the end of the block.

The last possibility is called “Transit Promenade” and would focus on pedestrians with widened sidewalks down the entire stretch on King St. The streetcars and vehicles would continue to be mixed mid-block, but thorough access would be forbidden. Vehicles could travel down the street mid-block and would have to turn right at the end of each block. This would allow for pedestrians and cyclists to consistently access the roadway.

Once the public consultations are complete and a specific plan is chosen, Keesmaat and the planning division will seek city council approval in July and would begin a pilot project in the fall.  Currently Keesmaat pointed out that cars are given 64 per cent of the road on King St. and only move 16 per cent of Toronto commuters, which is not simply not logical. The city will also complete a ‘modelling study’ while they complete the public consultations, which will monitor traffic on nearby routes to ensure that the plan to redesign King St. doesn’t cripple commutes in other parts of the busy downtown area.

Redesigning King St. to become more focused on transit users and pedestrians will get people moving in a way that doesn’t put vehicles first. This is better for the environment, moving mass amounts of people, and is the best way to get everyone home at the end of the day. It will be exciting to walk down King St. after the pilot project is launched, whichever option is chosen.

Woman of the Week: Maggie Habieda

Maggie Habieda has only one goal — to make her clients feel beautiful, like the “queens and kings of old.”

Habieda built Fotografia Boutique Inc., a photography studio that specializes in portraits, about six years ago during a time when photography studios were shutting down. It was one of her biggest challenges, but that didn’t deter her. Habieda isn’t the type of person to simply give up on a dream. With a certain amount of grace and charm, she fights, learns, and persists. She graduated with a Masters in Communication and Design from the Ontario College of Art and Design, but that didn’t include a lot of practical business experience, so she went to the library and took out every book she could find on finance and entrepreneurship.  Six months later, she hosted her grand opening.

Photo by Fotografia Boutique.

Habieda came to Canada from Poland at the age of 16. She knew she had the soul of an artist, but couldn’t get into any  art schools in her home country. She decided to move to a foreign country — Canada — despite the fact she didn’t know the national language, and proceeded to be accepted into art schools with a number of scholarships.

In college, Habieda painted and drew women – most of them as princesses. Eventually, she discovered a passion for photography and started her professional journey as a wedding photographer, capturing women on the happiest days of their lives. This type of photography changed how she viewed the term “princess.” She started to believe that every woman is a princess, and that’s something she wanted reflected in her work.

“I shifted away from weddings, I wanted my own environment where I could greet people and the whole place to be for them, to feel better for them. Where they could get their hair and makeup done and change clothes where no one is watching. Create their own world where they feel and look beautiful and walk away with something timeless.”

Photo by Fotografia Boutique.

What makes Habieda’s portraits so unique is her classic style, something she says she developed over the years to combat the “overdone” selfie craze. Her photographs are textured so that they don’t quite look like the traditional pictures you may keep on your phone. Instead, they look like classic paintings or drawings, something you may find in an old castle rather than a 21st century living room.

“In today’s world, everyone has a camera – there is sea of photographers taking photos and as soon as they are taken they are forgotten. I bring back the classics,” she says. “When I edit, I like it to be creative. I add textures, adding little elements, something that makes it more illustrative than just a photo itself.”

Habieda’s creativity and ability to focus on true beauty, rather than just point-and-shoot with a camera, is what separates her from others in the industry. She has been able to connect with high-profile celebrities, politicians, and community leaders, which has led to a very successful and thriving business.  She has won a number of prestigious awards for her work, including the Tiboor Horvath Award of Excellence, Wedding Portrait Best in Class, and Certified Glamour Photographer from the Professional Photographers of Canada.

And yet, she still hasn’t lost touch with her true vision — to capture, and inspire, beauty in others.

“Every day, I transform people’s lives. I spend time hearing people, their life stories. This is beyond capturing a portrait — its capturing people’s souls from the inside, how the world should see them.”

When she isn’t working in the studio, Habieda runs an annual concert called Colours of Love, which brings together six international artists to celebrate love, diversity, and the performing arts. This will be the third year Habieda organizes the concert, held at the Mississauga Life Centre, and hopes this year will be just as successful.

“Music is the universal language. I want to give and spread love with this world.”

To see more of Habieda’s portfolio, visit her website at fotografiaboutique.ca.

 

Your 3 step guide to the perfect Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is as joyous as the winter holiday season for some, and as agonizing as Monday mornings for others. Celebrating love and affection between companions is a beautiful experience; however, there is a lot of pressure to live up to the standards society has set for couples. Expressing our love by presenting flowers, a box of chocolates, or cheesy greeting cards with dancing monkeys on them just doesn’t cut it anymore. In today’s day and age, a lot of other factors need to be considered to have the ‘perfect Valentine’s Day.’

I casually watched the build up last week as all my girlfriends in relationships questioned whether or not they should be expecting anything from their significant others on Valentine’s Day. As they prepped themselves with waxing sessions and had their lingerie on standby, one thing became clear very quickly. Even if they’ve been seeing each other for over a year, even if they were married, even if it’s only been a few months – the bottom line is women are always expecting something. That too, without the intent of initiating anything themselves.

Passive aggressive texts are sent and not so subtle hints are dropped to ensure that come Valentine’s Day evening, they will have some sort of plans with bae. So, to avoid any sort of disappointment and heart break, here’s a step by step guide to make sure your Valentine’s Day is barf worthily corny and envied by others.

Initiate it yourself 

Ladies, it’s 2017. If you can’t ask your man or woman out on a date, you’re not doing feminism right. Take a stand against patriarchy and don’t wait around for the flowers and chocolate. Return the favour and make the gesture by getting him/her something nice too. Investing in a red, lacy number is thoughtful, but let’s be real: it’ll only be on you for a maximum of 3 minutes before it’s on the ground. Besides, it’s really more for you than them. Oftentimes, media lure men into getting something special for their partner by advertising jewelry or the perfect type of chocolates to give during the dinner that they too pay for. That sh*t gets pricey. So, if he can spend a good chunk of his pay-cheque to impress you — you can too. Even if you make less money than him. (But let’s sip tea about that another day.)

Lay off social media

Okay, Rachel – we get it. You’re feeling your new Pandora bracelet and the roses you got are redder than your cheeks during the great Canadian winter. But it’s important to say thank you to Carl and let him know you’re grateful for him rather than telling 756 of your ‘friends.’ In midst of all the likes and comments are hidden scoffs and eye rolls from people you barely know, in addition to people you might want to reconsider having any sort of friendship with. Besides, seeing what Richard got Anika may make you question and reevaluate your own relationship. Is your gift big enough? Is your selfie cute enough? Don’t bring that sort of negative energy into your life. Sure, sharing a selfie to commemorate your love is cute, especially on Valentine’s Day. You should be proud of your significant other’s face, and you have every right brag about with your favourite filter. However, one too many posts, and you will end up on the ’16 annoying couple posts’ Buzzfeed piece. And that’s not something to brag about.

Do something! 

Yes, every day should be Valentine’s Day. However, it’s important to make things a little more special sometimes. And if society sets out a special day for you to encourage you to do so, then by all means – take advantage of the opportunity. I’m not saying to go on top of the Empire State building and declare your love with a bouquet of $150 peonies (Thanks, Chuck!). However, if you have dinner with your significant other every night, have dinner with candles tonight. Skip the routine missionary and spooning, put on something sexy, and surprise your significant other with some spine chilling foreplay. If you want Valentine’s Day to be special, go out and make it happen.

Sometimes expectations for Valentine’s Day can be so high that you just can’t reach them. And while putting together the perfect night can take more planning than a military operation, what’s important to remember is that being with the one you care for is what should make it special. Trying not to conform under societal pressures to go big or go home is difficult, but keeping your partner in mind is the key to success. Don’t do it for the Instagram post — do it for bae.

And if you happen to be without a partner this Valentine’s Day, embrace it. No one will ever love you more than you love yourself. And if that’s not the case at the moment, start tonight!

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day? Let us know in the comments below! 

The one text message you should never send

“Hope you’re well!”

It’s a phrase that takes one second to send. No autocorrect needed, no thinking required. Sometimes modified, most seen in work emails, with family and friends, your next-door neighbour, the phrase implies that we, the sender, wishes the best upon the person. And that’s pretty much it.

I learned the implications behind this text message the hard way. After sending a similar text to a friend of mine during a difficult time in his life, I quickly realized that sometimes, it’s better to just ask.

So, just ask.

Wishing well upon a person is nice. But it doesn’t do the job of showing how much you care about the person. It’s a wish. Meaning you don’t expect a reply, you instead assume- and hope- that it’s going well. Sending a text message along these lines allows you to skip the details, tidbits, and everything in between and just jump straight to the conclusion; everything’s well.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of the hidden subtext behind this phrase either. But, to some, it implies that the sender is merely pretending to care about someone. Because that was the truth when I sent this text to him. We had just met. He was a new addition to my life. So, I felt like I was required to check up on him out of formality. It was courtesy.

However, it was the first time I was called out for being courteous. He knew exactly where I was coming from when I sent that text. As a people pleaser always looking to get on everyone’s good sides – the guilt was real. So, ever since that incident, I’ve took it upon myself to be very careful before ‘hoping’ the people I interact with are well.

Before sending the text, it’s important to ask – do I really care how this person is doing? Sometimes, the answer is still no. And that’s okay. It’s fine to just hope in this case. However, the question then arises, when you’re looking to catch up with someone you truly care about, how you can really showcase your interest in the person’s life.

Take a look at the text messages exchanged between you and your best friend. There will be no hope in sight. Rather, your texts will contain a plethora of very concrete questions; “How is it going with that thing?”, “Did you find out about…?”, “Is it over yet?” followed by very detailed responses, usually details that you, the reader, could have lived without actually knowing. (i.e The events that took place the morning after Taco Tuesday)

The bottom line is, there will be a time in every person’s life, sometimes multiple times a day, when they must stare directly into their phone screen and laptop, and spout the words ”I hope you’re well.” It’s embedded into us to hope well for humanity. And although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes instead of hoping well, it’s better to just make sure they are well. You never know what a person is going through unless you ask. Because, unfortunately, we live in a society where there’s no answer other than ‘good’ when it comes to responding ‘how are you?’

So, offer something extra and lend your ears once in awhile. If their story turns out anything like mine, you’ll get a great article topic in return.

What text would you never send to a loved one? Let us know in the comments below! 

Single on Valentine’s Day? It’s going to suck

It’s Valentine’s Day. Isn’t that great?

Two months ago I had a boyfriend. This year would have been the first time I celebrate this “holiday” with a partner. As you can imagine, I was already planning the details. How I would act all surprised when he brought me flowers with a small heart-shaped card asking “will you be my valentine.” He would cook a romantic meal that we would eat by candlelight. Afterwards, a little dancing outside under the stars (in my dream, it’s always warm in February). The perfect, romantic, Valentine’s Day.

And then it all went to shit — as it always does around the holidays. Am I right ladies?

Now, I’m single again. Single on Valentine’s Day. It feels slightly akin to this:

But, I’m used to it. I’m used to the numbing reality of being lonely, with only your parents to send you a quick “I love you” e-card and a box of chocolates to make you feel extra special. Imagine the talk in the office: “ooooo, who gave you those heart-shaped cupcakes??!! Who is the special guy/gal? – Oh, it was my mom.”

But, does Valentine’s Day have to be so crappy for single women? All the magazines tell us that it’s totally fine and there are lots of ways to celebrate this holiday without a partner. Let’s run through the options:

I’m going to focus on self-love this Valentine’s Day: What a bunch of bull shit. Do you think that by going out to a pedicure or treating yourself to a glass of wine, you will forget about how single you are? You know what sounds like a fun time? Going to a fancy restaurant and having a luxurious dinner by yourself while watching as all the couples around you kiss and laugh and dance….yes, that sounds lovely. Sure, I can spend a few hundred dollars on a spa day, surrounded by equally single (or retired) women, drinking gross cucumber water and pretending to be happy. But honestly, it’s just a waste of a lot of money. I’d much rather go to the spa on a day where I can enjoy it.

I like the sentiment. The “I don’t need a man to complete me” philosophy is a good one, but on Valentine’s Day, it all goes out the window. Even the strongest of women are entitled to feel crappy as they watch everyone else pair off. No amount of “self-love” can change that.

I’m going to hang out with my single friends: What single friends? As a millennial in my mid 20s, all of my friends have paired off, and all the single ones bat for the other team. Hanging out with them makes me feel even more alone. Don’t get me wrong, hanging out with friends is always the best bet, especially if you are feeling a bit sad, but it’s not always the best solution. Your friend invites you to a dinner party that night and you may be stuck sitting between couple A and couple B, trying to explain why there was no guy….literally no one….you could have brought.

Let’s say, for argument sakes, you have a solid group of single friends, all looking to hang out and forget about this terrible Hallmark holiday. You go out, drink your fill, and spend the next few hours trying to get the cute guy in the corner to give us the time of day. At the end of the night, all you are left with is a splitting headache and a lot of regret.

 

I’m going to find someone online to spend the evening with: Bad idea. Just a really, really bad idea. I don’t know how much clearer I can be. Anyone online on Valentine’s Day is looking to do just one thing — find a desperate and sad woman willing to have a one-night-stand. I’m sorry, but it’s true. This isn’t Hollywood. No one finds their soulmate on Valentine’s Day. Remember ladies: you never know who is behind the screen. And, if you do decide to meet up with someone, it will never be Ryan Gosling.

 

I’m going to spend time with family: Hi mom! I’m back! Thanks for the cupcakes and the card! Yes, I know I shouldn’t be upset I don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day. Yes, I know I deserve better. No, I’m totally fine! Can I have a second helping of mac n’ cheese please?

Seriously though, spending time with family is great. They can be a real comfort when you are feeling down. But, it also emphasizes the fact that, well, you have no where else to be. Unless your family has a tradition of getting together on Valentine’s Day, it’s just a nice reminder that your siblings and friends are all having a romantic evening out and here you are, watching a movie with your mom and dad, pretending everything is normal.

As you can see, the choices are slim. I apologize for my pessimism, but there really is no escaping it. Valentine’s Day is going to suck. Might as well embrace that fact and do it properly — alone, in my pyjamas, with Chinese food and a giant stack of candy, watching A Walk To Remember while clutching a box of Kleenex.

Pro tip: Get to your closest grocery store super early the next day for discount chocolates. It’s really the only positive thing about this stupid holiday. You are welcome.

Will you be single this Valentine’s Day? What will you be doing? Let us know in the comments below!

Time to get naked and comfortable with your partner

Do you find yourself trying to cover up when naked in bed with your partner? Are you racing to put clothes on after the shower? Is being in the nude nearly un-‘bare’-able? You aren’t alone.

Many women dislike being unclothed in front of their partners, and this is ultimately damaging to confidence in a relationship. Women are surrounded by air-brushed lingerie ads of women who are perfect looking, and this leads to damaging self-criticism. This discomfort needs to be destroyed. It is time to throw off the clothes and learn to love that naked body for exactly how beautiful it is. Feeling comfortable being naked in front of your partner will not only strengthen your relationship, it will ultimately make you feel better about yourself.

Embracing the nude isn’t a process that will happen overnight. It takes consistent effort and, if you work at it, slowly but surely it will become completely natural to hang out in the nude with your partner. Start by confronting your fear head-on, the dreaded mirror. After a shower, instead of avoiding your reflection, take a look. Instead of glancing at yourself with critical eyes, try to see what your partner sees. What is beautiful about your sexy body? What makes your feminine self desirable? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and self-criticism is not helpful. High self-esteem starts with yourself, and meeting that beautiful woman in the mirror for a post-shower ego-boost will adjust you to being naked and increase confidence.

Taking care of your body will promote a healthier relationship with your body. This does not mean develop a punishing regiment for daily exercise, but instead should inspire you to learn how to love your body without being fixated on trying to change it. How about a massage or even treating yourself to a manicure and pedicure? Treating your body as a temple will promote a sense of much-needed self-love. Exercise is important and creates a healthy self-image, so challenge yourself to move your body in ways that feel sexy and fun. Do you like to dance? Put on some music and bust a move! Do you enjoy hula hooping or swimming? Grab a hoop or jump in the pool! Moving the body in a fun way makes exercise enjoyable and will make being naked even more fun.

After some serious self-love exercises, it is time to test the waters and try to get naked with your partner. If you are still feeling nervous, enact a ritual to feel more confident like putting a bit of mascara on or putting coconut lotion on your body. If the lighting feels too bright, use a lamp, candles or softer lighting. It creates sexy mood lighting and will make your partner very excited. Remember, your partner wants to be there with you and your beautiful naked self. Men aren’t critically assessing your stretch marks or blemishes, but are simply excited to be with a naked woman they love. Good men are not looking at the flaws, but instead are looking at the woman beneath them. Try and see yourself through the eyes of desire, you will look pretty dang good.
Being naked with a partner will ultimately forge a more intimate relationship, with the added bonus of shaking up your sex life. Be brave, and love your naked body. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and that is precisely what makes women so beautiful. Embrace the body you were given and make it your temple — if only for your own benefit.

Toronto 2017 budget continues to rely heavily on property owners

The executive committee pushed forward the proposed 2017 $10.5 billion budget on Tuesday, and leaves many in Toronto divided on how satisfied they are with the results.

Here are the highlights:

The budget includes a two per cent increase in residential property taxes, will allocate $80 million more to TTC, and $37 million to  Toronto Community Housing. The city will also be providing 200 more shelter beds this year and Mayor John Tory has thrown his support behind supporting more daycare subsidy spots — there are currently 18,000 children on the daycare subsidy waitlist— though provincial aid is needed to help foot the bill.  Unfortunately, recreation fees will still be increasing.

Other revenue tools that have been approved include a hotel tax of four per cent (10 per cent for short-term rentals) that is expected to bring in an extra $5.5 million in revenue. There is also a plan to harmonize the Ontario Land Transfer Tax with the Municipal Land Transfer Tax, which is estimated to raise $77 million.

The city will have to use $87.8 million from reserves to make up the rest of the budget.

The property tax hike, hotel, and municipal land-transfer tax were met with criticism by many Toronto citizens because these revenue tools put even more pressure on locals to meet the budget needs of the city. Relying so heavily on the inflated housing market is also an unstable revenue measure because if the housing bubble pops, the municipal land transfer tax and property tax rates could financially destroy homeowners.

Instead of consistently relying on property owners to pay for Toronto’s services year after year, more creative revenue tools need to be adopted in future city budgets. Road tolls, recently shot down by Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Ontario Liberals, is a solution that would directly fund transit by charging not only the 905 commuters coming into the city for work every day, but all Torontonian downtown drivers a small fee. Using road tolls as a revenue tool would relieve pressure on property tax hikes and raise much needed funds for transit and community housing that desperately need to be built.

The budget fills gaps on some city services, but falls short of adequately shortening the affordable housing waitlist, not to mention many other items on the agenda that desperately need funding.

7 things to know before Girl Positive launches in Vancouver

Showcasing diverse voices of girls and young women from North America, Tatiana Fraser and Caia Hagel shift the focus from media’s sensationalist stories to highlight real-life accounts of how girls are making positive change and shaping a new world. Girl Positive looks closely at topics from social media, sexual violence, hypersexuality, and cyberspace, and offers stories of struggle and victory, bringing to light where today’s girls are finding new paths to empowerment.

Girl Positive launches in Vancouver Thursday at the Historic Theatre. To find out more about this unique publications, Women’s Post caught up with co-authors Tatiana and Caia and asked them a few questions. Here’s what they had to say:

Can you tell us more about your new book, Girl Positive?

Caia Hagel

Tatiana: Girl Positive was published in September by Random House. It explores the political, social, and cultural realities facing young girls and women today. We cover a range of topics; from pop culture to the Internet, to girls and sexuality and we dive into topics such as poverty and racism. We talk about girls as leaders and changemakers. Girl Positive also takes up issues pertaining to girls, power, and relationships and unpacks issues around sexual violence. So, its quite broad in terms of the issues we tackle. We really intended to center girls’ voices and experiences; to hear from them about how they see their world and the issues that they’re dealing with. It was important to get a feel for their inspirations, actions and visions for change.

What was your inspiration behind the book?

TatianaAs founder of Girls Actions Foundation, I was working with girls, young women, and organizations across the country for many years. It was very clear to me that the issues or the stories and the popular culture and the narratives about girls didn’t line up with girls’ realities. This misalignment was outdated.  What we’re doing in the book is re-framing the issues that girls are dealing with in a more complex and holistic way.

CaiaTatiana and I met when she was still acting director at Girls Action Foundation and I was—and still am—the co-founding creative director of Guerilla Pop Media Lab, an ethical media group. We enjoyed working together and the approach we took to creating a dynamic media platform for the voices of girls and young women and their messages, cross-pollinated in an exciting new way. I’ve been working my whole career in media creating space and visibility for the less visible and often most pioneering voices  Girls are an emerging force. In Girl Positive, Tatiana and I merged our skills, our passion for girls, and our belief in their crucial role in co-creating our future, to provide a platform for them to speak from the truth of their experiences. We hardly ever hear from girls themselves about their own lives, even when the stories are about them. In our book, girls speak from their diverse realities. In Girl Positive, all the people who care about girls, including girls about each other, get to know them, get to understand their struggles, see their visions and learn about practical ways to support them in their leadership as they move in to their power.

What was it like to collaborate with each other?

TatianaIt was a very creative experience for both of us. What’s unique about our collaboration is that by combining our backgrounds and expertise, we were able to make this work accessible to new and broader audiences. Oftentimes, the learning that’s happening around girls and young women is happening in the margins and on the fringe. We wanted to reach every parent and educator across the country- and everyone who cares about girls. That is what is really special about our partnership together.

Caia: We managed to create a holistic space where storytelling could be the means to seeing, hearing and feeling the issues that are at stake in our book, and in the world. We were able to do this because we brought culture and politics together through our backgrounds and complementary expertise. When ‘issues’ are made personal and heartfelt—and we love how the book is just brimming with girls voices, they’re all in there with us, navigating us through their worlds—big things like ‘activism’ and ‘policy change’ become tangible to everyone and like ‘wow, I really get this now and I can be part of it too!’ which is something we really wanted to offer all readers.

You speak about many problems that girls face on a day-to-day basis in your book. Can you tell us more?

Tatiana: We’re both parents. We both have daughters. And so, it was really important for us to focus on girls’ voices and hear their stories. The book weaves together many and diverse experiences that girls are living. Our role is to provide the context and draw on the analysis and the thinking that’s out there. In terms of experience, I can say for myself, that the inspiration for doing and creating spaces for girls and young women came from my own experiences growing up a young woman and a girl. I ended up in Women’s Studies by accident at university and it was transformative for me because I began to see that my experiences growing up with a single mom and seeing issues around violence that my peers were dealing with, or my family had dealt with, issues related to gender violence that often become internalized for girls and young women were in fact social and political issues that I could help change.  So, I think we all have our personal journeys that connect to the many issues that we talk about in the book.

Caia: It’s a unique time in history to hear from girls and young women. Technology has allowed them to create a new space for their self-expression that is unfiltered, honest and real—and all over social media and mainstream media feeds, generating attention, noise, controversy and discussion. After having been left out for so long, girls are now able to speak up and push their agendas into culture on their terms. I would have loved to have had the same direct line to participating in collective dialogue as a girl! Tatiana and I both grew up with single moms who were feminists. We happened to have role models who could help us think critically about who we were and what we needed. Resources, mentors and good role models are a crucial part of a girl’s ability to actualize her dreams and the often practical and brilliant solutions she has to some of her own, her community’s and the larger world’s problems. Trusted mentors and resources are also necessary in helping girls live up to and back up what is said on social media, or what we see there because celebrity feminism is so hip right now. There is still a lot of progress to be made that requires all us. Structures can only shift to give these voices real power to lead if a lot of us are involved in supporting this movement, and the girls within it. We hear incredible stories of girls and by girls in our book, who are re-imagining social, cultural, political and economic issues from their unique points of view, informed by their diverse realities and their resilience. Our goal with Girl Positive is to celebrate this by bringing their stories together in one dynamic place. With this, and reflections from experts on some of the topics we cover, as well as our own analysis, we aim to give tools to all of us to support girls so that all girls can be part of shaping the future.

Do you have advice for girls who aren’t feeling so positive, especially in the wake of recent political events?

Tatiana Fraser

CaiaWe were devastated by the election of Donald Trump. But the truth is that through his alt-right agenda, we are finally seeing and having to politically negotiate with what has always been there but bubbling silently (and violently) in the background. It’s easier to fight what is in the open. Girls, women and the many marginalized groups that are most deeply affected by this administration are feeling a call to action that is unprecedented, and an urgency about using their resources to organize, protest and build against these regressive forces. We see this time of darkness as a great opportunity for large-scale transformations lead by the people who are carrying the visions for a world that is innovative, inclusive and progressing because it reflects our true diversity. The Women’s Marches and the movements of resistance at the Dakota Pipeline and Val D’Or are a great start. It’s as if Trumpmania has opened the door for all of us to use our voices, to get our toolboxes together, and really organize ourselves to make change part of our agenda.

TatianaIt’s definitely an opportunity. There’s momentum. It’s a unique time. A time for young women and girls leadership for change. It is a time to build on where we’ve come from and to really push for change on many levels. At the same time, it’s a calling to recognize there’s work to do. Part of that work is recognizing the intersecting realities girls and women experience from diverse locations and identities. Women who are coming from issues related to poverty, or women who are dealing with racism have an important perspective, experience and contribution to make to the change. There’s work to do.

What message do you hope to pass on with this book?

Caia: One of the simple ways of accomplishing the goals of the book that we’ve listed above, was to create a ‘survival kit’ at the end of every chapter that offers practical tips about the issues of that chapter to everyone from girls themselves to grandfathers, friends, mothers, teachers, political leaders and coaches—to support those issues and get involved in changing them to empower girls. You don’t have to be wearing a pink hat and a pussy riot scarf and be marching on the streets everyday to make change happen. You can do it in small and large ways, which are equally as meaningful. We took a very passionate and practical approach to creating a book that we hope becomes a handbook for everybody in our collective quest to shape a future that is sustainable, enlightened and populated with leaders who are, and were once, girls.

Your book launches today! What can we look forward to?

Caia: The Cultch theatre (hyperlink to https://thecultch.com/) has started a Femme February month and our panel will be the first event. We will host
an amazing line up of three generations of women who work in the arts, and we will link the stories from our book told by girls to the storytelling they do as writers, actors, activists and directors – and hear from them about the realities they face in the workplace where racism, sexism and ageism are still alive and well. We’re really excited to be participating in this event and having Girl Positive make a splash in Vancouver!

Girl Positive launches in Vancouver today at the Historic Theatre. To find out more about this unique publication, visit their Facebook page!