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Dear Santa: the women of Toronto, Canada, deserve more

Dear Mr. Kringle,

The head office of Women’s Post is situated in Toronto; therefore much of our news coverage occurs in this city. Toronto is our home — and we can see it needs a little extra help. The staff at Women’s Post is hoping that you, Nick, may be able to help us all out.

This is what is on our Christmas list:

More women on boards: This was a topic of great debate throughout 2017 (yay!), but it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. The European Union announced a proposal to make it mandatory to have 40 per cent of non-executive members on company boards to be women. This, unfortunately, does not include managerial or executive roles on boards.

Meanwhile, in Canada, very few boards are gender equal (and even less female dominated). Women hold approximately 14 per cent of all board seats and only 26 per cent of open board positions are filled by female applicants. A McKinsey & Company study in 2016 showed that only six per cent of Canadian CEOs are women. A new organization was formed this year to help tackle this issue.

Nick, can you please help us! Instead of dreaming of sugar plums this year, can you help private and public leaders, CEOs, and board executives dream of a company that represents everyone? Let’s have people of all genders, sexualities, and races represented on boards — and not just in non-executive roles!

More funding for things that matter: Infrastructure, transit, education — three things that will help our country, and the people who live in it, grow. All levels of government have pledged a certain amount of money to help municipalities develop new routes and lines for public transportation, but it’s not nearly enough. People are desperate for housing, whose prices have skyrocketed throughout the year in big cities like Vancouver and Toronto with no hint of dropping back down.

Sure, the federal government has announced funding for a National Housing Strategy, and $4.8 billion in transit funding has been earmarked for Toronto, but all of these promises come with a) a timestamp and b) a political commitment. Politics always gets in the way. For example, the Ontario government refused to allow Toronto to collect money from tolls because it could affect votes in the 905 area.

Canada is a prosperous country, and Toronto is better off than other cities. But, there is still work to be done and our politicians may need a little bit of help. How about it Nick?

More women in politics: Canada may have a gender-equal cabinet within the federal government and the Ontario government, but there more to gender parity than representation within a single entity. For beginners, women are still underrepresented as elected representatives to begin with, sitting at only 26 per cent nationally.

More women need to be encouraged to run for all aspects of public government. Politics are unforgiving for women. There seems to be some strange double standard in which women are questioned about their capabilities (and wardrobe) much more than men. This scrutiny makes it very difficult for women to commit to a public service campaign. What if you change that Nick? Can you remove the gendered lens through which people view politicians? That would go a long way to encouraging more women in politics.

End sexual assault and harassment: Forget the celebrity aspect of the #MeToo campaign for a second and lets visit the statistics. Earlier this year, Statistics Canada released the rate of self-reported sexual assault in 2014, and it was about the same as it was in 2004. In 2014, there were 22 incidents of sexual assault for every 1,000 Canadians over the age of 15. This equates to 636,000 self-reported incidents.

This figure only gets more disheartening when you remember that only one in five cases report assaults to the police.

Now, I know you cant do much about this Nick, but is there a way you could spread your holiday spirit around a bit so that people are more kind and compassionate towards others? Maybe if people were more compassionate, they wouldn’t look at women as objects and treat them with such violence?

Nick, I know our wish list is long and complicated. I know it may be impossible to full fill these requests. But, it would mean the world if you could try. We believe in you!

Best,

The staff at Women’s Post

P.S. We promise we have been good this year!

How should parents deal with child bullying?

Parenting challenges you in unexpected ways. Recently, my daughter confessed to me that a boy is bullying her at school for being vegan. This little kindergartener is a constant source of sorrow for the other kids, teasing and kicking other children at will. My daughter has mostly managed to escape his abuse, but not since he discovered she was vegan.

As a parent, how do I deal with this little bully? I can’t directly confront the child myself as I would if someone was teasing or kicking me, but I also cannot just let it go. Bullying is one of the most devastating things kids can go through in school, and it can have traumatizing effects if not dealt with properly. It does fall to parents to manage it and ensure that all the appropriate parties are aware they have a bully in their midst.

This leads to step number one; telling the teacher and/or daycare. Having open communication with the school and daycare teachers will help the problem. Most times, they simply aren’t aware that a child is being bullied in the first place. If the teacher seems dismissive of the problem, don’t be afraid to go to the principal. Your child matters and putting up a big stink about bullying is necessary to protect kids from harm.

If the bullying continues despite informing teachers or daycare instructors, the next logical thing to do would be contact the child’s parents. This can be difficult to do because parents want to think best of their children, and it is hard to admit when your child isn’t acting appropriately. At girl guides recently, another little girl tried to exclude my daughter from playing in a group of girls and luckily, my daughter held her own and played with another child. I could tell she was upset though and decided to step in after the fact. Being friends with the little girl’s mom, I decided to approach her about it. I made sure to not accuse or blame in any way, and having a friendly rapport with her helped a lot. It is important to build relationships with other parents, so that if there is a problem, it is much easier to speak to the other parent openly and honestly. If this isn’t possible or the parents aren’t receptive to being friendly, contacting them in the most polite and calm way possible is the best way to get the results you want.

Other suggestions include preparing your child against bullies through open communication. After both incidences, my daughter and I had a thorough discussion about how bullying is bad and is often a result of the ‘bully’ being insecure and sad. We also discuss how important it is to walk away from a bully, to be brave, and to tell the teacher. Practicing what to say in case a bully teases her helps her feel more prepared. Now, when someone teases her for being vegan, she knows and understands from our discussions that it is because she is different, but in a good way. Bullies often pick on kids that are vulnerable or different. I try to help her understand that being different is great and she should feel empowered for being known as the token vegan at school.

For younger kids, the book “Have you filled a bucket today? A guide to daily happiness for kids” is a great read that helps promote good behaviour towards others. The story explains that everyone has a bucket and filling other people’s buckets with love and kindness will make you happy. Alternatively, if you are mean and selfish, or you take from people’s buckets, then will be unhappy. It is very simple and helps kids relate better to the abstract explanations of emotions.

Bullying is a common problem that kids and parents are forced to deal with on a regular basis, and being prepared will help. Overall, I try to give my child as many compliments a day as I can to help boost her self-esteem. I try to not stick to compliments solely based on appearance, but compliment her intelligence and skills as well. A child that feels better about themselves can be better armed against bullies, and I want her to feel protected and loved.

What are your solutions to dealing with bullying as a parent? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

GISHWHES made me realize normalcy is overrated

This past week I did some crazy things — I went for a run with pineapple shoes; handed out free coffee at a bus stop; dressed up as a zombie and served people burgers; and modelled a corn husk bikini, among other things.

Why did I do all of this, you may ask? Well, it’s because I was a participant of the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (also known as GISHWHES).

GISHWHES is a seven-time Guinness World Record breaking scavenger hunt that took place last week, between July 30 and Aug. 6. Thousands of participants from over 100 countries participated in this hunt, performing random acts of kindness, creating beautiful art, and carrying out truly weird tasks. The 178 items on the list varied from sending birthday cards to a young boy with autism, to dressing up as a stormtrooper trapped in the industrial age, to volunteering at a veteran’s centre.

Part of the money raised from registering for the hunt goes to the non-profit Random Acts. Many of the items on the GISHWHES list were created in partnership with the organization — encouraging participants to commit to acts of kindness and to do things that would make others happy.

I fell in love with the idea of GISHWHES last year, but was too late to register. This year, not only did I participate, but I led a mostly-Canadian team as captain.

Part of the reason I became so enthralled with this absolutely insane initiative is because it’s not geared towards a specific demographic. It’s a hunt that is meant for people of all ages and economic groups. It pushes people outside their comfort zones and challenges them to try something different. When was the last time you did something just to see if you could do it? When was the last time you did something that made you feel incredibly uncomfortable? When was the last time you created something beautiful?

As an adult, my life often falls prey to routine. I get up in the morning, do some yoga, go to work, commute home, and then watch television until I fall asleep. I do grocery shopping, go see a movie, take public transit — and I never look up. I don’t take in my surroundings or speak to random people on the streets. I keep my earbuds in and walk quickly to my next meeting.

In essence, I have a “normal” life — and that’s something that GISHWHES tries to knock right out of you!

The hunt was founded in 2011 by Supernatural actor Misha Collins. The original idea was to have thousands of people from around the world connect to create incredible things and perform random acts of kindness. Six years later, the hunt has grown into an incredible annual tradition, with an uncountable number of people running around doing wacky tasks for the very slim opportunity to travel to Iceland with the founder.

The best part of the scavenger hunt is that it’s really not about winning. Rather, it’s about the experience. This past week, I had to put myself out there. I dressed in a bikini made of edible materials, despite my body image reservations. I was transformed into a 90-year-old woman using makeup. I made a hat out of socks and a collage from magazines. My team conquered castles, built sand trailer parks, conducted public photo shoots for breast cancer, and placed positive notes on parked cars. Our international team members even made a stuffed panda from feminine hygiene products and drew a face on a skittle!

The corn-husk bikini. Photo by Meaghan DeClerq
The corn-husk bikini. Photo by Meaghan DeClerq

Now, as I say goodbye to my new international friends and return to my work routine, I’ve noticed a difference. I may still pack my lunch and do my yoga in the morning, but I’m more aware of the world around me. I know its possible for me to spend my time in ways that benefit others as well as myself. I know that I can pull off a two-piece swimsuit and be confident enough to approach strangers on the bus to chat. Not only did I learn that I CAN do all these things, but that I WANTED to do these things.

More than that, I’ve learned that it’s okay to experience child-like wonder as an adult. In fact, it’s wonderful!

Thanks GISHWHES!