Author: Camaro West

We Need A Revolution

With last week marking the opening of the 68th session of the United Nation’s General Assembly and the Social Good Summit happening alongside it, the international community has been abuzz about how we can make the world a better place. This has me reflecting on a collection of statements about ending global poverty that I read sometime ago. The gist of the article is that for decades the rhetoric has been that this can be the generation to end global poverty, yet it hasn’t been accomplished. I think about these statements, specifically in the context of women’s rights and the reasons that, although we have been talking about the oppression of women and girls for decades, gender-based discrimination persists. If we are to make real and lasting progress, we need to radically transform the way we position the oppression of women and girls, as well as our approach to addressing this oppression. Let’s talk about the root causes of gender inequality The root cause of women’s and girls’ oppression is a patriarchal value system that places men …

Happy Global Female Condom Day!

Before the May 2013 Women Deliver Conference in Malaysia, Girls’ Globe featured a story on female condoms.  At that point, Path’s “Female Condom’s Are ___________” film contest was the topic at hand. During Women Deliver, I was thrilled to be present when Pathfinder International’s film “Female Condoms Are…Power. Protection. Pleasure” was deemed the contest’s winner.  If you haven’t seen the film, it’s a beautiful story well worth the five minutes. After attending the event, I had the chance to speak with The Universal Access to Female Condoms‘ (UAFC) Beatrijs Janssen about the organization’s work to increase access to female condoms worldwide. In honour of International Female Condom day, here are some quick facts from our conversation that we bet you did not know about the contraceptive: Female condoms have been on the market for over 20 years and are available at most drug stores, family planning centres, and in some places you might not expect… Like hairdressers.  In Zimbabwe, Population Service International (PSI) works with hairdressers to make female condoms accessible to women in a space where they feel comfortable and …

Evymama: Toronto’s Only Breastfeeding Boutique

“Toronto’s Only Breastfeeding Boutiques.” Those are the words written on the window of Evymama, a Toronto-based maternity and nursing boutique. Founded six years ago by Sarah Lemay, Evymama is a space for mothers and expecting mothers to find the right products for their needs, ask questions in a supportive environment and access a diverse collection of resources. When it comes to breastfeeding, in addition to a wealth of knowledge stemming from personal experience, the Evymama staff taps into Toronto’s network of professionals who specialize in lactation and supporting breastfeeding moms. The store offers nursing attire for women of every size and every comfort level, ranging from those who have no problem breastfeeding in public to those who prefer to be more discreet and covered. It is not punishment to feed a baby. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be something you want to get over with in order to get back to wearing clothes you like. If you were fashionable beforehand, you can still wear pretty things while breastfeeding. ~ Carla Murphy, Resident Doula at Evymama Throw into the mix …

Women Deliver Presidential Session: Investing in Girls

Today’s presidential session featured a high profile panel of women committed to improving the lives of girls globally: Maria Eitel, President and CEO Nike Foundation; Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, General Secretary, World YWCA; Reeta Roy, President and CEO, the MasterCard Foundation and; Dr. Nafis Sadik, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General These women provided insight into the importance of focusing on girls, and the ways in which  investing in girls benefits entire communities and countries. Although these organizations work in different parts of the world, the themes are crosscutting and nothing short of collaboration on the issue will bring about effective and lasting change. Check out some of the points raised in the session highlighting why we should celebrate girls and spread the word about the importance of investing in their futures: The girls of today are going to be the women of 2030. We need to listen to them because they will determine the agenda.  The opportunity to invest in the young girls’ education is nothing short of shifting her trajectory. The needs of girls aged …

Female Condoms Are ________

When we talk about women’s reproductive health, we often talk about women being empowered to make the best decisions for our health, our families and our lives in general. When it comes to safe sex, women have many options to prevent pregnancy, but very few when it comes to taking charge of protection against STI’s.  The female condom in the only barrier method used by women that protects against pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.  However, there tends to be some stigma surrounding female condoms; whether it is because they are perceived as unsexy or difficult to use.  The reality is that female condoms are the ideal choice for many women who seek to be in control of their own protection. Recognizing both the stigma and the opportunity to educate, PATH put out a call for filmmakers around the globe to submit short films under the theme “Female condoms are _________”.  The results, coming from countries like Kenya, Mozambique, United States, Bolivia and Malaysia; are funny, honest, informative and help to dispel misinformation …

Talking Gender Inequality with the Minister of Gender Affairs for Saint Kitts and Nevis

Earlier this year I had the chance to speak to the Hon. Marcella Liburd, Minister of Health, Cultural Affairs, Gender Affairs, Social and Community Development for Saint Kitts and Nevis and the only woman member parliament.  Minister Liburd exudes energy that I find it difficult not to be captivated by.  Having heard her speak from afar many times, I was thrilled when the opportunity arose for me to speak with her one-on-one during my last trip home. My goal in sitting down with her was to supplement my personal knowledge of the challenges facing women in my home country, with a more official opinion on the state of gender affairs and in what ways, if any we are making progress. When asked to identify the key issues facing women in St Kitts and Nevis, without hesitation she named domestic violence and the lack of women in leadership positions. What followed were some candid insights into culture and gender relations in the twin island Federation: On the barriers facing women in Saint Kitts and Nevis… Covert discrimination: …

Shadeism

Shadeism, also known as coloursim refers to: “…the discrimination based on skin tone, which exists amongst members of the same community, creating a ranking of a person’s individual worth based on shade. Shadeism is common in communities of colour across the world, and it is also an issue that people of colour experience whilst living as part of diasporic communities outside their native lands.” – Shadeism Shadeism, a short independent film, is the work of a collective of women living and creating art in Toronto, Canada.  I first saw the film two years ago after it was sent to me by a friend following our own discussion of colourism, it’s roots and the harm it does within our own community.  While both men and women are affected by the discrimination inflicted by shadeism; women and girls – all the more objectified and subjected to the pressures of impossible beauty standards – are particularly susceptible. If you live in an area with communities of colour, the skin care section at the drugstore or beauty supply store …

Highlighting: CODE RED for Gender Justice, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

  CODE RED for Gender Justice is a Caribbean feminist activist collective, raising awareness and providing opportunities for regional collaboration on issues of gender justice. Our activities aim to bring a plurality of critical feminist voices to everything from politics and economics to gender and sexualities in our global world. Source Whether writing about mainstream news stories through a feminist lens or sharing inspiring stories of women and girls around the world, CODE RED carves out a space for Caribbean feminists in the dialogue and activism surrounding gender equality. Beginning as a student organization at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados; CODE RED now has an international reach.  The organization’s work includes an annual Symposium to nurture emerging feminist scholars and activists from the Caribbean, and the creation of the CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network working towards gender equity and women’s rights. Issues that receive critical analysis from the CODE RED writers include sexism and sexual violence in society, news media and pop culture.  A recent article “Kick in She Back Door: Violence …

Central American Women Organizing for Change

The poor working conditions for women in factories or maquilas located in Central American Export Procesing Zones (EPZs) are no secret: Long hours, often with forced overtime; no medical insurance or care for workplace injuries; and barely enough in earnings to live above the poverty line. Women and girls, some as young as 11 years old, are specifically recruited because of their perceived docility and obedience. But what is less well known, are the stories of women advocating for the labour rights of women and girls working in these EPZs and making progress.  Within Central America, this movement not only involves campaigning for changes to laws and workplace practices that are harmful to women, but building the capacity of individuals and groups of women to be community leaders.  The short documentary “Pushing Back: Women Workers Speak Out on Trade” features women from Honduras discussing working conditions in factories and the work being done to empower women and change labour standards: CODEMUH,  (Honduran Women’s Collective) CODEMUH has been working towards women’s empowerment and securing worker’s rights in Honduras …

Prioritizing Women and Girls in Ghana

Ghana is among the countries with National elections scheduled for later this year.  Having been in the country working on a Gender-related project for the past seven months, my natural inclination has been to look for how Candidates are addressing the particular needs of women and girls in their party manifestos. What I have noticed is a lot of rhetoric about addressing women’s issues and promoting gender equality, but without the same concrete plans of action that accompany promises of improving the economy and addressing issues impacting youth. Creating a Women’s Manifesto for Ghana In 2003, the Women’s Manifesto for Ghana, spearheaded by the Regional Office of West Africa for ABANTU for Development aimed to address the lack of women’s representation in Ghanaian politics and consequently the failure to give due attention to the needs of women and girls. ABANTU uses outreach, training and advocacy to equip women with the tools needed to access leadership positions, participate in national development processes and make women’s rights a mainstay of national policymaking. Source Since 2003, the Manifesto along with ABANTU’s advocacy …