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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.

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.

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!

Canada’s new Governor General is a former astronaut!

Earlier this week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Julie Payette, a former Canadian astronaut, will be the country’s next Governor General.

Most would agree that Payette is the ideal candidate for the position of Governor General. The 53-year-old Montrealer speaks six languages, she has a commercial pilot licence and has held positions as a computer engineer, scientific broadcaster, and corporate director. Before serving as CSA’s chief astronaut, she participated in two space flights to the International Space Station.

Payette is a strong advocate for promoting science and technology, which could make her an incredible role model for young girls interested in STEM.

Suffice to say, Women’s Post is absolutely thrilled with this choice.

The role of Governor General is mostly ceremonial. The chosen candidate is recommended by the Prime Minister and then appointed by the Queen. They are also responsible for ensuring that Canada has a stable and functioning government. He or she has the power to dissolve parliament and give royal assent to legal documents.

The term for Governor General is usually five years.

My harrowing journey trying to find vegan Easter eggs

There is no way around it. Finding affordable vegan Easter eggs for kids is a challenge.

First of all, it’s a miracle in itself that there are vegan Easter eggs in stores. It is fairly easy to find a chocolate bunny, vegan cream eggs, and even little dark chocolate bunnies at health food stores, but impossible to find anything affordable for kids! One cream egg is around five to six dollars. Imagine buying dozens for an Easter egg hunt?

I was unprepared for this dilemma when I committed to host a vegan Easter egg hunt for my daughter’s Girl Guide group. Lo and behold, I found myself panicking at some non-descript health food centre trying to price crunch seven dollar chocolate bars for 20 children. As a vegan mom though, it is necessary to think quickly in such situations and I opted for the plastic eggs filled with skittles and jujubes (both surprisingly vegan) and non-dairy chocolate chips. The problem was solved, but there was an unexpected twist that forced me to pull out my vegan mommy powers again.

When I hid the eggs outside for the scavenger hunt and nature walk, the slugs took over. I quite literally mean the little slimy bugs that manifested and decided to make their new homes on the cheerful looking plastic eggs. It was ironic that the vegan eggs I’d worked so hard to make were very nearly ruined by an animal. Did the slugs not know I was trying to save them?

When my daughter and the other little girls noticed the slugs, pandemonium erupted with shrill screams and a flurry of little ladies running around panicking.  I quickly took the egg with the biggest slug and scooped him onto my finger. I began talking about how amazing he was, how slugs function in the forest and joked about how much they loved Easter eggs. The girls took this in and stopped being afraid of the interesting critter. The vegan eggs turned the nature walk into a very interesting learning experience.

For future egg hunts, I will decidedly abandon buying the eggs all together. Instead, making vegan Easter eggs at home with a mould. Vegan chocolate will be a much cheaper and yummier alternative. Simply takes cocoa, sugar, and other select ingredients depending on what type of eggs you would like and a mould. It is also healthier to make your own eggs because it won’t contain the additives found in mass-produced chocolate.

Be sure to use the weekend to get outside, soak in some rays, and smile because the days of seasonal depression are finally behind us. Just watch out for the slugs!

Happy Easter from everyone at Women’s Post!

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!

 

How to fight off that pesky PMS

If you Google “how to handle PMS”, a lovely box appears at the top of your screen with a useful list of topics on how to “treat” mood swings. According to most of the links associated with the topic, a girl should simply exercise, avoid caffeine and sweets, eat small meals, and try to manage or reduce stress.

Thanks Google. Helpful.

The problem is that PMS (or Premenstrual Syndrome) generally makes you want to curl up in a corner under blankets instead of venturing outside to use an exercise bike, makes you crave sugar and salt to such an extent that you want to eat a whole bowl of mac and cheese by yourself; and makes you stress about stupid things that don’t matter.  Obviously, if women avoided all of these things life would be easier, but the problem is that PMS makes us feel like we can’t!

My PMS is terrible. It lasts almost a full week leading up to my time of the month, and during that week, I’m a mess. I never know if I’m going to be happy, sad, frustrated, or angry. It takes me 30 minutes to decide what to wear in the morning because nothing looks good on me anymore (it doesn’t matter if I wore it the week before and received compliments).

There is no “cure” or “treatment”, despite what some magazines will tell you. There are, however, some things you can do to try to alleviate the mood swings a little bit. Here are a few:

The first is all about acceptance — do what you need to do to feel better. If you want to eat chocolate and lie in bed while watching a rom-com, do it! And don’t feel guilty! It’s important to give yourself time to heal and relax. Take a day for yourself and do the things you’ve wanted to do over the last few weeks. Avoid the people in your life who are confrontational. However, if you are feeling especially down, make sure there is someone around you can talk to. Make sure the friend or family member you choose is non-judgemental and can handle the silly freak outs.

Don’t forget to take your supplements! You may be losing some of your body’s natural magnesium, as well as vitamins B and E. Calcium supplements have been said to help alleviate some of the symptoms of PMS like bloating.

In terms of physical activity — yes, it’s true that exercise can relieve stress, anxiety, and boost endorphins, which can improve your mood. But, let’s face it. If I leave the house during days I’m experiencing PMS, that’s a miracle.

Instead, focus on stretching at home. Get a yoga mat and look up a few simple workouts on Youtube. Do some meditation and soft movements. This will help alleviate those pent-up emotions and relax both your mind and body. Go for a nice walk outside if you are able. Nature can have a calming effect and the walk will give you time to come to terms with the emotions you are dealing with. If you feel like doing a bit more, but still would rather avoid the gym, try a Jillian Michaels yoga video (I promise you it is unlike any meditative yoga you’ve done before).

Get creative and make a plan. This is not something recommended by doctors, but it does work for me. Instead of focusing on all of the supposedly terrible decisions I’ve made, I try to think of new good decisions I will make the following week. For example, I will go get some healthy food from the store so that when I’m feeling more up to it, I have the ingredients to do some baking. The whole process of planning important decisions is calming and relaxing — and it makes you feel like something positive is coming from that pesky PMS.

What’s important is to realize that being slightly crazy for a few days of the month is simple biology. It’s normal. So, don’t sweat it. Do what you need to do to get through this tough and uncomfortable time, and then move on! And also don’t listen to Google — it doesn’t understand women like you do.

 

Do you have any suggestions or recommendations to alleviate some of the symptoms of PMS? Leave a note in the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Flanagan

Jennifer Flanagan, co-founder and CEO of the non-profit Actua, was exposed to science and technology at a young age, more so than other young girls in her class. Her father and uncle were both engineers, and as she says, “kids that grow up with engineers or scientists as parents are typically the ones that pursue it themselves.”

Flanagan’s plan was to go to medical school, combine her love of science and her affinity for helping people into one career. But, all that changed when she saw a poster on the wall asking the following question: Do you want to start a science or engineering camp? Her answer was a resounding yes.

That small group of students started up a few camps locally, but soon the model spread nationally among engineering programs at different universities. As of 1994, the camps had a policy for gender parity, with an equal 50 per cent divide between girl and boy participants. “That was unheard of,” Flanagan said.  “It was controversial, amazing, and it worked.”

The programs became more popular, and eventually the students started to receive funding from university chairs and Industry Canada. And that’s how Actua was formed — a national charitable organization that engages young kids and marginalized communities in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). “We [engage] about 225,000 youth a year – that includes a huge focus on those underrepresented audiences, or the hardest to reach audience in Canada,” Flanagan explained. This includes a program called InSTEM, a customized, community-based educational program that engages First Nations, Metis, and Inuit youth, as well as a digital literacy program that transforms young people from passive consumers into real innovators capable of using and creating future technology.

Twenty-five years later, Flanagan is just as excited about her role in Actua as she was when she saw that poster on the wall. She says she has seen progress since the program went national.

“Big evidence of that progress is Actua,” she said. “When I first started doing this work, we had to convince people it was important. A summer camp was one thing, but no one saw the link to the future work force or economic development.”

More woman are getting involved in certain science, like medicine for example, but Flanagan says there is still a void in research and in technology-based industries. “Whether its health-based research that’s skewed because no women were involved — it affects research outcome. It’s really important to have those voices at the table. And so, that starts really early. Talking to girls – telling them that they can do science and we NEED them in science. We need to make sure women are designing the world of the future.”

Flanagan is working with a team on a special project meant to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary next year. Actua is building a “Maker Mobile”, a mobile workshop that will travel from one end of the country to the other in just over 18 months, stopping at schools and community centres along the way. “A maker space is a workshop that is filled with technology tools that allow you to build prototypes or allow you to build products,” Flanagan said. “We are celebrating past innovation by building skills for future innovation.”

The idea is to inspire young people to not only learn more about science and technology, but also to inspire them to innovate. The maker mobile will empower these young people and shift their attitudes. Too often, people tell kids to pay attention to math and science so they can do great things in the future, Flanagan explained. Instead, why not encourage them to do great things now?

“Today’s youth are incredible innovators already. They are amazing problem solvers and have natural abilities with science and technology.”

Flanagan’s passion often follows her outside of her work with Actua. She sits on the board of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, an organization that has a wide mandate, which includes empowering women, helping them escape violent situations, and ending poverty.

“The work with the Canadian Women’s Foundation is so fundamental — doing work that is creating the first generation of women free of violence requires more passion. The work that we do, engage girls in science and technology goes far beyond knowing there is enough female participation in these subjects. It’s about raising confidence.”

Flanagan is also a finalist for the Social Change Award for the 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. She is reading a newly released book called “Girl Positive”, which tells the story of hundreds of girls across North America and finds out what they need, something Flanagan says is critical reading for parents and policy makers.

 

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What I want to tell my child on International Day of the Girl

Yesterday I watched my five-year-old daughter trek through a field of long grass almost as tall as her, marching valiantly with her walking stick and determined to forge her own path. It hit me how strong women really are, even when we are small girls. She may be mini, but she is mighty and I will protect her with everything I have to give.

Unfortunately there are some girls in the world today that don’t have the opportunities that my daughter has in this world. Imagine a small girl with no healthcare, education, or parents to protect her. This nightmare exists and isn’t just the stuff of some grim horror movie. Looking at my daughter, I am confounded that things such as child marriage or female mutilation are realities. It is a good first step that International Day of the Girl was launched in 2011 to recognize the importance of advocating on behalf of girls everywhere. It is a day that has made me realize how lucky my daughter is that she was born into a country where she has opportunities. Why would any little girl deserve less than another simply because of her nationality? Her ethnicity? Her gender?

International Day of the Girl was declared on December 19 2011 by the United Nations General Assembly. The UN adopted Resolution 66/170 to make October 11 a day that recognizes girls’ rights and the importance of advocating on their behalf. International Day of the Girl also focuses on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are a series of objectives on behalf of the UN to make the world a better place.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 focuses on achieving gender equality and empowerment for all girls and women. A few of the Goal 5 targets include ending all forms of discrimination for woman and girls, ending violence, eliminating harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage, giving equal access to government roles, and providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health.

The percentage of women between the ages of 20 and 24 who were married before 18 years old dropped from 32 per cent in 1990 to 26 per cent in 2015. Marriage of girls who were younger than 15 also dropped from 12 per cent in 1990 to seven per cent in 2015. Female genital mutilation has dropped slightly, but it still continues to be a relevant problem in certain countries — there is unfortunately limited data. In 30 countries that had data available, one in three girls have undergone the practice as compared to 1 in 2 girls in the 1980s. More information is needed on this issue to truly understand the scope of female genital mutilation though.

Another statistic: globally, women speakers in national parliament accounts for 18 per cent of all speakers as of January 2016, with 49 out of 273 posts globally.

There is clearly a lot of work that needs to be done to create a safe world for girls everywhere. International Day of the Girl is a step towards highlighting the importance of these issues, but world leaders need to take more than one day to recognize the challenges, obstacles, and atrocities these young girls deal with every day. I can only hope that I will one day be able to tell my daughter that child marriage, female genital mutilation, child marriage and unequal representation in parliament are things of the past, and that we can finally live in a world of equality for girls around the world.

What is a “women’s publication?”

As the editor of a women’s publication, I often struggle with its content. Should I appeal to the masses and publish fashion and beauty tips, tips for great sex, or outline the best weight loss diets? Or should I break the mould?

When Women’s Post was founded in 2002, it was done so with a single purpose — to showcase talented women across Canada. The founder of this publication, Sarah Thomson, started it after noticing the disappointing selection of magazines targeting women. They were all pitting woman against woman, competing for the newest fashion trends and workout regimes.

Women’s Post was meant to show that women are interested in more than just their looks. The publication would feature profiles of professionals, asking what they do to help other women succeed in their respective industries. Since then, Women’s Post has grown into so much more. We still feature talented women and have a clear focus on mentorship, but we also publish articles on city politics, the environment, technology, business, and, yes, fashion.

I draw the line at weight loss diets though.

The key is balance — admitting that women are interested in a variety of things, whether that is the latest hairstyles and trends or the rising stock prices. It’s also about recognizing the influential power the media has on women, particularly young girls.

An image has been circulating social media over the past few weeks that has caused a lot of outrage, both inside and outside the newsroom. The image shows the front page covers of two different magazines: “Girls Life” and “Boys Life”.

Girls Life focused on makeup, hair, and overall beauty tips while the Boys Life cover featured job opportunities in the sciences and in technology. While the magazines are not owned by the same company, it displayed some of the blatant gender differences that are engrained in the media.

In Canada, we do a slightly better job. Our “women’s magazines” have articles that encompass a variety of interests, from work advice to recipes. Of course, there will always be specific fitness and health magazines that target specific female demographics, but Canadian publications seem to understand they don’t need to compete with these pre-existing celebrity gossip magazines.

Women’s Post proudly joins the list of Canadian news organizations that have come to understand that gender doesn’t dictate interests. But, I’m even more proud to be part of a publication that also focuses on making sure others know this too. Women’s Post profiles women from every profession, focusing not only on the challenges they had to overcome to get where they are now, but also their many accomplishments.

Women compete enough without the aide of rows of magazines telling them they could be thinner or smarter. With an ever-growing wage gap and the constant discrimination women face in the workplace, isn’t it more important to celebrate womanhood rather than destroy it?

Women’s Post strives to not only be a publication that supports and showcases great women, but a publication where anyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, can find news that interests them. I truly believe this is the future of journalism — anything else is simply insulting, don’t you think?