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Ontario election: Gloves are off!

The gloves are off in Ontario politics. Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath seemed to be a joint force while individually taking aim at Conservative leader Doug Ford  this week as the three leaders participated in a heated debate.

 

Horvath and Wynne both warned the public about what a Ford provincial government would result in. Horvath questioned Ford about his promises and how he plans to cut taxes and to be transparent, like former Conservative leaders.

“The other Conservative leaders, Mr. (Tim) Hudak, Mr. (Mike) Harris — they were very upfront about what their cuts are going to look like,” Horwath said.

“Why don’t you have the guts to tell people what your cuts are going to look like? What is in store for the people of Ontario?”

To this Ford simply stated that he was on the side of the taxpayers, also vowing to not be the cause of any layoffs if elected.

Horvath went on to describe a decision made between her rivals, Ford and Wynne, is like choosing between “bad” and “worse,” insistent on showing why she Is the best choice out of the three”

“She will now be the centre of interest “CBC reports the words of Geneviève Tellier, a political studies professor at the University of Ottawa. “Even if you didn’t think you wanted to vote for her, you’re more likely to pay more attention to her now.”

The consensus from political enthusiasts was that Doug Ford played the election debate safe yet raised eyebrows when he stated he would not support safe injection sites.

 Wynne shared her expertise on policy and her intentions to put them to use. She spoke about “inclusionary zoning” and were in a sparring match with Ford over affordable housing for young people.

Each candidate, all in the running for the provincial election on June 7th, revealed how they plan to win the election.

The provincial election debate kicks of the on Wednesday, despite the feeling that it began weeks ago, due to candidates speaking regularly to the media about their party platforms and intentions. All contenders are solid competition and it will be interesting to see how the remainder of the election unfolds.

‘Slow Down Toronto,’ Mayor John Tory announces initiative directed at aggressive drivers in school zones

Stepping out onto the bustling city streets of Toronto and the GTA, whether simply to grab a coffee or find your destination to the office, can often feel like entering a war zone. Due to increasing congestion on city streets, which is often accompanied by frustrated drivers and a bit of road rage from those who are simply fed up, means that accidents of both the vehicle on vehicle and vehicle on pedestrian form are a constant worry.

I know every time I prepare to make my way across a busy intersection, even when the walking- man symbol is visible and it is my right of way, I look left, right, and left again, taking extra precaution out of worry that I may become the latest victim and statistic of aggressive driving. School zones are of particular concern for worried parents and staff members who witness the aggression in these areas, despite signage that indicates speed limits are far lesser.

Mayor John Tory has realized the need to initiate a number of road safety projects particularly in school zones and intends to enforce the message “slow down Toronto,” within these zones. The initiatives are to be launched over the next few weeks and are part of Toronto City’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plans, estimated at a cost of $86 million, which is to partner with the Toronto Police Service school zone safety campaign.

Mayor Tory spoke at Cornell Junior Public School, alongside Deputy Chief Peter Yuen of the Toronto Police Services and Yvonne de Wit, Director of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, in addition to Barbara Gray, General Manager of Transportation Services.

“The safety of all pedestrians, but particularly children, must be a priority in this city. One pedestrian death is one too many.  We are working to prevent these deaths and protect our residents across the city,” Mayor Tory stated. “We all have a responsibility to share our streets in a courteous and safe way. I am committed to making sure all those who use our roads – pedestrians, cyclists and drivers – can get where they need to go as safely and efficiently as possible.”

The initiatives involve a two-week “Slow Down Toronto” campaign in school zones which are beginning this week. The campaign is to focus on traffic enforcement and driver education on “speed, distracted driving and aggressive driving,” which are all contributing factors to injuries and deaths in collisions.

Additionally, a one-year pilot project which will provide new and flexible traffic calming signs in 12 school zones across the city, will begin this week. The signs will be placed in the middle of roadways in these zones as a reminder to drivers. Other signs advise pedestrians to only cross at designated crosswalks.

The city is also ramping up the School Safety Zone program and will be retrofitting 80 schools in 2018, up from original plans to retrofit 20 schools annually.

Over 2018, the initiative will see new school zone safety signs with flashing beacons, school zone pavement stencils, “watch your speed” driver feedback signs,  zebra markings at school crosswalks, examination of placing a school crossing guard at major crossings, and traffic calming measures beyond the front of schools.

Other initiatives meant to be launched this year include, implementing an automated speed enforcement pilot, reducing crossing distances via painted curb extensions, introducing a mobile “watch your speed” program, installing more senior safety zones and pedestrian safety corridors, as well as conducting more safety audits, making cyclist safety improvements and more.

 

Let’s end violence against women and girls

Thanks to the #MeToo movement, more and more women are coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. Women and young girls are finding that powerful voice within them to speak out against sexual violence and crimes against women in general.

On Nov. 25, the United Nations will lead the annual worldwide campaign marking the start of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  This will be a 16-day campaign with hundreds of events worldwide.

One in three women are affected by violence. According to the UN, 19 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have said they experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within the last year. In 2012, almost half of all women who were murdered, were killed by an intimate partner or family member. The same can be said of only 6 per cent of male victims.

The theme for the campaign is Leave No one Behind, emphasizing the urgency of addressing these issues and not allowing them to be normalized. The campaign will educate the public on the types of violence women face and mobilize change.

During these 16 days, iconic buildings worldwide will be lit up in orange, the colour officially associated with the day. Orange symbolizes a brighter future without violence. Local events that could spring up in your city include marches, flash-mobs, concerts, football and rugby games, as well as other unique and creative public events to bring awareness to the issue. The hope is that this movement will mobilize governments and the public to take part in the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s umbrella campaign to end violence against women by 2030.

“Violence against women is fundamentally about power,” Guterres said in a statement. “It will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women will be a reality.”

The rise of the #MeToo campaign on social media has awoken a global protest against sexual harassment and assault. Through this hashtag, women are sharing their stories of violence afflicted towards them from even politicians and celebrities. These women are acting as examples for others, finally bringing some of their attackers to justice. UN Women is now working towards implementation new laws and policies that will offer women and young girls further protection.

The specific theme this year is also directed at refugees and migrants who are at a higher risk of being targeted for abuse. This recognition covers all women and girls despite their age, race, religion, income or citizenship. Women and girls need to be protected and offenders should be prosecuted to ensure that there is a societal message of  a zero-tolerance policy  towards violence of any kind.

For over 20 years, UN Women has been supporting various organizations around the world that have proactively taken steps in reducing community violence directed towards women. Earlier this year there was a collaborative effort with the European Union on a special spotlight initiative focusing on domestic, family , sexual, violence, human trafficking and labor exploitation. This included an initial investment of $500 million (EUR) by the EU.

To show your support during the 16 day campaign, use the hashtag, #orangetheworld and #16days. You can also change your profile picture by adding an orange filter.

Tens of thousands of women share #MeToo stories of sexual harassment

I don’t really have a #MeToo, but I stand with those who do.

I’m extremely fortunate (so far) and I know that. I have my own experiences with sexism — I’ve been treated differently by employers, mocked during interviews, and called a bitch by random strangers on public transit — but my stories are tame compared to those being shared on Twitter right now. And for them, as well as my friends and colleagues who have experienced sexual harassment and assault, my heart breaks.

Following the allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, women started to share their own experiences of sexual harassment and assault. The latest forum is Twitter, using the hashtag #MeToo.

This particular movement started with American actress Alyssa Milano, who asked her followers to reply with the words “me too” to show how widespread sexual harassment really is.

Tens of thousands of people replied to the battle cry, and that number is increasing with every minute. Some people simply used the hashtag, while others provide context describing their situations. The responses have been from people of all genders, sexual orientation, professions, and economic demographics.

On Oct. 13, women boycotted Twitter in support of actress Rose McGowan, who was blocked by the social media agency for her criticism of Weinstein and those who are supporting him. Now, it seems like women have reclaimed this platform, using it to voice their opinions and show exactly how prominent sexual harassment is in the twenty first century.

The number of people using this hashtag should shock us, but it doesn’t. One in four women in North America will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime, and of every 100 assaults, only six are reported to the police. These statistics are even more grave when you consider that most people don’t share their #MeToo stories.

The are many reasons for not doing, and no one should be chastised for choosing to remain silent. It could be the victim was told to be ashamed of their experiences. It could also be that they were made to believe the attack was their own fault, or that alcohol or their wardrobe was to blame. It could also be that they are not yet ready to talk about their traumatic experience, which is okay. As many people on Twitter pointed out, just because you don’t talk publicly about your experience or use the hashtag, doesn’t make your story any less real.

I am a bit worried that this campaign will fall on deaf ears. These are real women who were brave enough to share their stories with the world in hopes of inspiring change. But, who will listen? In the United States, the White House is in the midst of making abortion illegal and removing birth control from insurance packages. While Canadian government officials pride themselves on providing free abortion pills, the debate surrounding safe spaces has become much too political. Every day a new challenge presents itself. Women who do accuse their attacker are often shamed in courtrooms or treated as liars. What happens when the Weinstein story dies down? Will these women be ignored once again?

Every few minutes someone experiences a #MeToo. It could be a family member, a friend, or a coworker. It could even be you. It’s incredibly important to stand with the courageous women and men speaking up today and realize the struggle to end sexual violence is an uphill battle. It will take decades.

What will you do tomorrow to help?

Toronto launches #KissesforBees at city hall

Toronto is buzzing about bees. A new art installation popped up at city hall Friday — a giant pair of red lips with milkweed plants inside of them. The idea is to attract native bee pollinators and promote education around the importance of protecting these buzzing critters.

The City of Toronto, along with Burt’s Bees, Wildlife Preservation Canada, and Live Green Toronto, were at Nathan Philips Square to reveal the art installation and promote bee pollination in the city. “Some people don’t realize how important bees are, but like we heard today, every three mouthfuls of food is pollinated by bees and without them we aren’t eating,” Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon said. “It is important that we plant pollinator gardens and educate people on the importance of bees.”

Sustainable T.O. executed the design of the art installation on behalf of Burt’s Bees and it took a large team to complete the project. “Burt’s Bees created the conceptual image and I worked with a fabricator to produce what we see here,” Environmental Designer at Sustainable T.O. Joel Anderson said. “There is an internal skeleton that supports the design and there are hundreds of hexagonal tubes that formed the shape. Then holes were carved into the installation to put the plants in.”

Pollinators such as bees need native plants to thrive and the entire plant ecosystem depends on bees to grow food and flowers. “There are 15-20 species of bumblebees that are native to Ontario and are currently endangered. There are many species of bees that are crashing and we are trying to stop it. Pollinators are important so that plants can have sex. This is one of the most critical elements of our ecosystem and a lot of plants rely on bees,” Executive Director of Wildlife Preservation Canada Randal Heide said. “Monarch butterflies will also benefit from the milkweed. Unfortunately, farmers hate milkweed and use pesticides to kill it, but disseminate monarch butterflies. In the cities, we have banned these pesticides and we have green spaces. Cities are probably a safer place for bees and butterflies.”

The art installation is a part of a larger campaign that Burt’s Bees is running to promote pollination in Toronto. They have launched the #kissesforbees campaign and for every lipstick sold, their partner Wildlife Preservation Canada will plant 100 wildflowers. The art installation will be featured until the end of June and will then be a part of the pride parade in July.

After that, the perennial milkweed plants will be donated to the David Suzuki Foundation who will distribute them to locations around Toronto to help further promote bee pollination for years to come.

Stupid Dove campaign gets body positivity wrong

Do you ever pick up a bottle of body wash and think: this doesn’t represent my body type? Or do you look at that tall and slender piece of plastic and wonder: wouldn’t I love a bottle that’s just like me, short and pear-shaped?

No? Me neither.

Apparently, Dove — a company that prides itself on celebrating “real beauty” — wants me to care about the shape of the body wash I purchase. In a ridiculous new campaign, the beauty corporation is showcasing diverse body types in their packaging.“From curvaceous to slender, tall to petite, and whatever your skin colour, shoe size or hair type, beauty comes in a million different shapes and sizes,” a Dove statement read. “Our six exclusive bottle designs celebrate this diversity; just like women, we wanted to show that our iconic bottle can come in all shapes and sizes, too.”

That’s right — Dove has changed the bottles for their body wash to represent different body types. Take a look at some of the examples below:

Photo courtesy of Dove

This is one of the stupidest attempts at body positivity I’ve ever seen.

There is nothing about a regular body wash bottle that is offensive to women, not unless it displays sexist remarks or hate messages on the label. It’s a bottle. It is a package for what is inside it. The fact that it is “skinny” or “lengthy” does not make me, a pear-shaped woman, feel uncomfortable. You know what makes me feel uncomfortable? Staring at a shelf wondering whether I will get weird looks if I pick a bottle that doesn’t “represent” my body type. Will the cashier look at me and go “she really thinks she looks like that!”

I understand the concept — kind of. Women are constantly bombarded by images of what society indicates is “perfection”. Social media is even worse. According to the Dove press release, “one in two women feel social media puts pressure on them to look a certain way.”

And that statement is true. The problem is that this campaign does exactly that. It reminds people they may not be their ideal body shape. It may cause those body conscious people to overthink about their body type, wondering whether or not other people see them as short, skinny, plump, or pear-shaped. Instead of encouraging body positivity, the campaign encourages women to think of themselves differently. It ultimately forces women to consider their body type in comparison to others. Isn’t that what Dove is trying to avoid?

Just because something is described as “feminist” and “body positive” doesn’t mean it should be. In fact, this seems more like a money-grab, capitalizing on the women’s movement in a really moronic way.

What do you think of this campaign? Is this #RealBeauty or #ReallyStupid? Let us know 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.

How to successfully market your non-profit online

It can be challenging running a charity or not-for-profit organization in the digital age. With so much information available on the Internet, how do you get your message across? How do you make people care about your cause?

Last week, Women’s Post attended Digital Leap 2016, a digital marketing conference for non-profits. The one-day conference was hosted by Stephen Thomas, a Canadian agency that produces and develops marketing campaigns for charities and not-for-profit organizations. The focus of the conference was three-fold: how to embrace the digital realm, how to be brave enough to think outside the box, and how to optimize and brand your work.

For not-for-profits and charities, the concept of a digital campaign can be difficult. Even more questions arise: Where do you start? How do you drive people to your website? How do you ensure people take more than 30 seconds looking at your work?

The first thing to remember is that it is all about content. A banner or square advertisement on a webpage doesn’t get nearly as many hits as marketed content. Peter Coish, founder and lead strategist of Toronto marketing firm Kuration, asked the following question at the beginning of his keynote speech: “How many people actually click on a banner advertisement…on purpose?”

The answer was almost no one. Curated and original content is the key to a campaign’s success. The content must be entertaining, but it also must inform and activate. Make a plan that outlines your organization’s goals, target audience, and campaign themes so that content isn’t being created in the last minute. Digital marketing takes time and if you don’t plan accordingly, it won’t be successful.

Fifty per cent of your content should contain relevant information about your cause or organization, but according to Alice Ferris, founding partner of GoalBusters Consulting, “sometimes, you just need a picture of a squirrel.” It’s important to make sure your content is entertaining and interesting. If you don’t, people won’t follow your work on a regular basis.

Now you have great content, what’s next? Getting your message across to the general public is the next challenge. There is so much noise on social media nowadays that organic reach is not really possible. It is necessary to spend some money pushing out your content on the Internet. This may mean buying Facebook advertisements and creating sponsored posts to bring new readers and donors to your cause. Knowing your audience is key: do they consume media on their mobile phones or do they watch a lot television? That will make a difference on how you spend your advertisement budget.

At the same time, Coish says that email is your biggest resource. Contacting your supporters directly — or people who are interested in your organization’s work — is the most productive and effective way to reach your audience. Don’t completely rule out traditional media as well. Mail is now considered a novelty, so if someone gets a personal letter with information about a specific cause, there is a higher likelihood they will actually read it.

Lastly, it’s important to be authentic. As Simren Deogun, Director of Digital Innovation at Stephen Thomas, says: “These are real missions and real causes and we are trying to create real change. Be real and authentic. That is almost more important than anything else.”

“Digital is not the future,” Deogun said in her panel. “It’s happening around you. From the small charity with three employees to the multi-million non-profit, it’s the fight. It’s not size that drives their bravery.”

It takes a lot of courage to approach your CEO or charity founder and propose a digital campaign. It requires a lot of creative thinking, knowledge of the return, and an ability to take a risk. While making your proposal, remember to take your audience into account and tailor your content to their interests. If you plan, write informative yet entertaining content, and drive your cause out on the appropriate social channels, there is nothing you can’t do!

Do you have any tips for digital campaigns? Post them in the comments below!

#MoreWomen: Elle UK’s new feminism campaign

There has been a lot of discussion about the number of women elected into the House of Commons on Monday night. It was all over the news—Canadians were excited that the number of women elected was so high, while others were astonished that 26 per cent of elected seats was being considered “high.”

It all reminded me of a video I saw on my Twitter feed last week. The video was posted on Youtube by Elle UK as part of their November feminism issue.

This editorial film—which was created by Alex Holder and Alyssa Boni in partnership with RSA, Electric Theatre Collective/The Line and Wave—takes photographs of powers of authority such as the British Parliament and uses photoshop to remove all the men. What’s left is a powerful image of how few women are really in positions of power within these international governing bodies.

The campaign is incredibly powerful in its simplicity, which is why its astounding that its viewership is under 850,000 (or at least at the time of this post). You can see the video below:

The goal of this campaign is to create positive dialogue about gender equality.

“Our new initiative #morewomen, will celebrate the global power of women’s collectives in a playful, engaging way. Smart, successful women are too often portrayed as one-offs: fierce individualists concerned with their own success,” Elle UK wrote about their campaign. “There are too many instances in business, music, art and media, where women are represented by a single female.”

I hope everyone takes a look at the video above and continues to share it on social media, even when the campaign comes to an end. It’s important to remember that even though more women are being hired in positions of authority, it is still not representative of the billions of women living on this planet.

We really do need #MoreWomen. What do you think?