Tag

africa

Browsing

26 African girls were found floating in the Mediterranean

The bodies of 26 teenage African girls were found floating in the Mediterranean sea on Nov. 7. It’s been more than a month since and very few details have been released about their deaths. Who were these girls? How did they get there? And why isn’t this story in the headlines? It is believed the victims were part of a sex trafficking trade from African to Europe and that the girls met their untimely death along the perilous refugee sea path to Italy that has already claimed many lives. The victims were between 14 and 18 years old.

Over the years, we have seen many headlines that flash briefly about the bodies of refugees found at sea, mostly those from Yemen and Syria, as they try to make their way to Europe. So far only two men in Italy have been arrested and charged in the deaths of the girls. Many of the girls as young of 14 suffered visible abuse. It is alleged the girls were picked up in southern Nigeria, held in Libya and then sent to Italy.

These girls were only a few of the many that may have been trafficked over the years — girls who have been tortured and raped. And we know very little about them.

These girls are nameless. They are forgotten victims. Their bodies, which were fished from the sea and placed in body bags, have not been identified or claimed. Since the early 1990s, girls have been taken from Nigeria and sent to Italy where they are forced into prostitution. According to the United Nations, there has been an increase in the amount of potential victims arriving in Italy by sea.  The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that in 2016, nearly 11,000 girls made the trip.

The IOM conducted a study that found since 2014. over 22,000 migrants disappeared globally while attempting to cross the Mediterranean. These are, of course, simply statistics. There is barely any background information on most of the refugees or those being forced into prostitution. Libya is serving as a modern day port for slavery and sex trafficking.  It’s a topic that is being ignored by mainstream media, as many sub-Saharan migrants face bigotry in Libya. The darker your skin, the fiercer the abuse. Men are being forced into construction jobs with almost no pay and migrants are even auctioned off.

For the girls that do survive migration trips, they are greeted with intense racism and degradation of the body once forced into prostitution.

Situations like this are heartbreaking and are spinning out of control.  That 26 African girls can disappear and nobody will notice is a debilitating thought. I can only imagine what their family and friends are feeling back home. These girls deserved much more — they deserve the headlines, to be remembered instead of being left floating in the sea.

Canada missing data for inclusion in ONE analysis on girls education

For the last five years, Oct. 11 has marked International Day of the Girl, where people are encouraged to reflect on the importance of education and human rights, especially when it comes to the empowerment of young girls. This mission, led by the United Nations, aims to bring global attention and action to girls that are in crisis around the world, including access to safety, education, and a healthy life. This year, the theme will be to help girls before, during, and after a crisis.

In honour of International Day of the Girl, ONE campaign released their second annual report on the ‘toughest places in the world for a girl to get an education.’ ONE is an organization that spans worldwide and is focused on issues like justice and equality, especially in African Nations. The report is based on a data taken from the 193 countries in the United Nations. Education is one of the most important factor affecting the prosperous growth of women. Eleven factors were taken into consideration.

However, out of 193 member countries, only 122 countries had enough data to be included in the report.  The top 10 worst countries for girls to get an education are mostly located in sub-saharan Africa and the order is as follows: South Sudan, Central African Republic, Niger, Afghanistan, Chad, Mali, Guinea, Burkino Faso, Liberia and Ethiopia.

Canada, France, and Germany were included in the list of 71 countries that did not meet the mark for proper data analysis. Canada only met four data points:

  • Girls’ upper-secondary out-of-school rate
  • Girls’ lower-secondary out-of-school rate
  • Girls’ upper-secondary completion rate
  • Girls’ government expenditure on education (as a per cent of total government expenditure)

All the data was collected from the UNESCO database. Some of the factors Canada was missing include girls’ youth literacy rate, mean years of school, primary teachers trained to teach, lower-secondary out-of-school rate and primary out-of-school rate. Canada is positioned as a country that supports girls education and development. However, there is lots of data missing to gather a full understanding of where girls stand in these developed countries. Canada is all about promoting feminism, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leading the way as a self–proclaimed feminist. Canada also featured two cities, Toronto and Vancouver, on the top ten cities for female entrepreneurs, but the data collected by ONE shows a lot of information missing about our own educational system.

ONE’s report hopes to highlight key issues that need improvement in order for girls to thrive. Their report indicated that the toughest places for girls to get access to proper education are amongst the poorest in the world, and are often marked as fragile states. Girls can face social, economic, and cultural barriers all when trying to access and stay in school. However, the report can conclude that just because a country is poor doesn’t mean that girls cannot get access to proper education . For instance, Burundi has the worlds lowest income, but ranks better than 18 other wealthier countries in terms of girls education. While all the countries on the ‘tough list’ deal with different issues, ranging from childhood marriage to poor literacy, the key issues are transparency and funding.

President and CEO of the ONE campaign, Gayle Smith said that “over 130 million girls are still out of school— that is over 130 million potential engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and politicians whose leadership the world is missing out on. It’s a global crisis that perpetuates poverty.”

In February 2018, Smith hopes there will be a Global Partnership for Education that supports education in developing countries. Various world leaders will be invited to fund this development and make a commitment to this cause.

Prime Minister Trudeau is, however, expected to make a few appearance in Washington D.C on Oct. 10 where he will attend the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit and Gala as well as participate in the Women One Roundtable discussion on Oct 11. It is hopeful that in the near future, more developed countries can make all issues of girls’ education more transparent because empowered girls make for powerful women.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Canadian and African Grandmothers unite against HIV/aids

In the midst of international terrorist attacks and great global unrest, seeing people continue to work across international borders and battle against forces greater than human conflict is truly inspiring, especially when it comes to the HIV/aids epidemic.

The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign connects Canadian and African grandmothers and gives them a platform in Sub-Saharan Africa to provide support for their grandchildren, whose parents have been decimated by the HIV/aids epidemic. There are over 14 million orphans in Africa after their parents contracted and died of HIV/aids and many grandmothers are raising their grandchildren alone.

The organization was founded in 2006 in Toronto. “The Stephen Lewis Foundation invited 100 grandmothers from sub-Saharan Africa to come to Toronto for a gathering and 100 Canadian grandmothers came as well. The Canadian grandmothers listened to the African grandmothers and what they have had to do to deal with the Aids pandemic,” Grannies for Good founder, a chapter of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, Joanne Gormely says. “It really created a connection between 250 groups of grandmothers in Canada in solidarity with grandmothers in Africa.”

The campaign is not a charity run by people who aren’t African, but instead is a movement created and controlled by African grandmothers and local field workers who have first-hand knowledge about what these communities need.

Gormley is one of the Canadian grandmothers who began a chapter in Montreal to support the campaign. She, along with other grandmothers, run events ranging from art sales to long-distance cycling fundraising for the grandmothers in Africa. Gormley has her own painful memories associated with HIV/aids. “I lost my own brother to Aids. I was still in grief of losing my own younger brother when I joined the group,” she says. “It touched me because I understood something they were living through.”

 Joanne Gormley (centre) with two of the other Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign members who attended the South Africa Grandmothers Gathering in Durban: Elizabeth McNair (L) and Carol Little (R). By Alexis Macdonald.
Joanne Gormley (centre) with two of the other Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign members who attended the South Africa Grandmothers Gathering in Durban: Elizabeth McNair (L) and Carol Little (R). By Alexis Macdonald.

Gormley, along with nine other grandmothers, also traveled to Africa to join a meeting of over 300 grandmothers in Durban, South Africa ahead of the 2016 World Aids Conference that ran from July 18-22. The group participated in protest of the lack of funding available to support the raising of these children, and joined over 2000 other grandmothers to Durban’s convention centre where the conference was being held.

The group of 10 traveled to South Africa and Zambia to see firsthand where their funds are going. The Grandmother to Grandmother campaign has raised $25 million over the last 10 years, with the proceeds going to various projects run by African field workers and grandmothers that live in the community.

The campaign has also provided jobs to women in the various communities that run the Grandmother to Grandmother projects. While on her trip to Africa, Gormley traveled with an African woman named Ida who originally grew up in abject poverty, and her husband had also passed away from HIV/aids. She now works for the foundation and her daughter is studying to become a lawyer.

These inspiring activists lobby governments across sub-Saharan Africa to take further measures to stop the spread of HIV/aids. The region has seen a 43 per cent decline in new HIV infections among children since 2009 due to UNAIDS global plan to eliminate HIV infections in the region. Public decimation of the antiretroviral treatment and educating has helped to lower the rate of HIV/aids. That being said, 24.7 million people are still living with HIV in sub-Sahran Africa due to lack of access to the medicine, with only 39 per cent of adults on the antiretroviral treatment.

Not only is this campaign helping reduce HIV in Africa, but this women-led group is also helping promote solidarity among women across the world. “The campaign promotes a sense of camaraderie and belonging by making a difference and being a voice for Africans in a global world. It helps in overcoming a sense of hopelessness,” Gormley says. “There is anger in those African women and they have a right to be angry. They deserve to be heard.”

The grandmother to grandmother campaign is a great initiative supporting women that are working together to solve issues from different cultures. We should all take these lessons from our elders and join the movement to help promote an agenda to eradicate aids from sub-Saharan Africa once and for all.

My tears over Sochi and the IOC

When the ignorance of governments, businesses, and organizations is overwhelming we can’t forget what we are fighting for.

I cried twice this summer.

I’m not much for crying, I have a tendency to express my deepest feelings through irreverence and sarcasm. This year, perhaps showing my advancing age, I found myself twice at a total loss for words and broke down in tears.

The first was during Toronto Pride. I was spending my Saturday at a garden party in the gay village and wandered away from my friends in search of a drink. The beer table was located not too far from the makeshift dance floor right beside a splash pad and jungle gym. I got into line and took stock of the scene in front of me.

Young friends laughing with each other enjoying the ambiance, old couples holding hands without fear of slurs or hatred. I saw a straight mother in her fifties dancing with her twenty-something gay son and his partner.

My moment turned into a living cliché as an acoustic version of “Born This Way” came over the speakers I saw two toddlers splashing each other calling out in opposite to directions, one to her two dads and one to his two moms. I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I turned into a sobbing, blubbering idiot.

In that moment I wished I could invite anyone who thinks there is something bad or wrong about being gay to stand with me and take it in.

I cried because it was everything we’ve ever worked towards. It was everything I had ever hoped to see in my lifetime. It was love, happiness, and unequivocal acceptance. It was just right.

My second set of tears came just the other day on the streetcar upon reading that the International Olympic Committee has sided with the Russian government, agreeing that gay and gay friendly athletes expressing themselves would be espousing some kind of political agenda and should be punished, either by arrest at the hands of the Russian police or reprimand from the Olympics themselves.

I thought of all the brave Russian people who are trying their best to survive right now and cried for them, and I cried thinking about how this opportunity for the men and women of the IOC to stand up and exhibit just one sliver of the bravery that these Russians show every day had reduced them to sniveling cowards.

The organizing body behind games meant for international cooperation threw the fags and dykes under the bus.

They’re in good company.

Amidst calls for Canada, harbringer of anti-discrimination laws and gay marriage, to pull out of the games in response to Russia’s draconian, hate-fueled laws there has been little response. Who cares about these homos anyway? Pulling out would punish the athletes, and apparently playing a game is more important than the livelihood and human rights of those stupid fags.

Our national broadcaster, despite having a number of queers they keep behind the desk to deliver you the news, sees it fit to continue covering the games. The excuse the CBC has cooked up is limp at best, using the Kremlin’s homophobic spectre over the games as an excuse to continue traditional sports coverage as if it were also news, despite the fact that they would be in direct contravention of Canada’s Human Rights Act to send (or not send) any gay reporters there to watch curling and speed skating. Besides, they just spent $100 million in taxpayer money to broadcast the games — the livelihood and human rights of those stupid fags obviously isn’t worth that much.

Sponsors Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, two of the biggest brand names in the world, haven’t made any motions towards stripping their names from the Sochi games, despite having both funded two of the largest gay celebrations in the world in NYC and San Francisco in recent years. I mean, bigots and homophobes eat Big Macs and drink Coke too, right? So, despite having already pledged their support to gay rights in the past, these big brands have to get their advertising while it’s good, nevermind us stupid fags.

When I cried on the streetcar they were tears of exhaustion. What can any one of us little people do in the face of giants like governments and multinational corporations and groups?

Part of me feels utterly defeated. Every broken bottle at Stonewall and every chant at the Toronto Raids worth nothing. Every gay person being arrested in the 38 African nations where it is a criminal offence worth nothing. Every single drop of blood from every single stupid fag like Matthew Sheppard worth nothing, and it has brought us here, to a place where we can’t even convince our own government, media, or businesses that we are human beings worth respecting or even protecting.

It is so frustrating and overwhelming to see my people being arrested and murdered, to see that all of our voices shouting can do so little.

And then I remember that scene in the park and I get it.

I’ve seen the perfect world, the one we are fighting for. I’ve felt the love, happiness, and acceptance all around me in one fleeting moment and I know that we can’t ever stop fighting until that world is real for us and for everyone around the world all the time.

If the IOC will side with the Russians we will shout twice as loud until our voices are heard. If Coca-Cola will sponsor these games we’ll dump it out in the street with the Stoli. If Stephen Harper and the CBC won’t pull out in order to send a message to Russia that these are despicable, evil laws we will bang on every door, write every letter, sign every petition, and march in every street until we are heard.

There is no giving up. Human rights and dignity are all or nothing. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to save our brothers and sisters in Russia and around the world, and if us little people scream loud enough in the ears of giants we can begin to change the future.

And if we can’t be respected and protected for who and what we are in this life than I can pray it will become true within the lives of my children, so that when they see the love, happiness, and acceptance surrounding a gay family in the park they won’t stop and cry, they won’t pause and reflect. They won’t even bat an eye.

 

 

You can follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.