Some of my most painful memories are of my friends and cousins crying as they were taken away to be married to men they didn't know, often much older. I grew up seeing young girls sheltered by my mother in our house from being forced into early marriage. Those were the fortunate few. There are many complex causes driving this violence against women and girls. But it is ultimately rooted in the reality that women and men are not treated equally.
The Up For Debate campaign sparked incredible excitement and energy among women's groups and their allies around the country. It goes to show we still have so much more to do for women to be equal in this country, and around the planet. There is an enormous strength in women's organizations and feminist movements coming together to do this.
It is estimated that globally 1 out of 3 women will be physically or sexually assaulted in her lifetime. In some countries, rates of violence against women are so high that we have a term for it: femicide. Women around the world continue to be afraid to say no to sex, for fear of being shamed, beaten, or even killed. It needs to change.
Last week, Canadians came together to celebrate their country's 149th birthday. This week, South Sudan marks five years as an independent nation. Yet for many there is little to celebrate. For half of its brief life, the world's youngest nation has been ripped apart by war, leaving tens of thousands dead.
The North American Leaders Summit is one of the first major opportunities for Prime Minister Trudeau -- a proud feminist -- to turn words into action and put his vision of a feminist foreign policy into practice. The human rights crisis in Mexico should be top of mind as he heads into his meetings with Presidents Obama and Peña Nieto tomorrow.
Whether through civil war or other forms of conflict, natural disasters or climate related disasters such as drought, the global scale of displaced people is unprecedented. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are now over 60 million forcibly displaced people around the world including 19.5 million refugees -- the highest number on record!
The Panama Papers provide further evidence of the scale of global tax dodging, and of its impact on poverty and inequality, particularly in the global south. Tax havens are estimated to be costing poor countries at least $170bn in lost tax revenues every year. This is essential money which could be paying for schools, hospitals, childcare or services to address violence against women. The realization of women's rights is not going to be achieved for free. UN Women have analyzed country action plans on gender equality and found that some are facing a shortfall of up to 90 per cent in the funds needed to achieve their goals
While still unproven, the Zika virus, mild for many who get it, appears to cause a severe fetal abnormality -- microcephaly -- in which an infant's head doesn't develop properly in the womb and causes brain damage. The rate of microcephaly in Brazil is suddenly 20 times above average and that rise appears to coincide with Zika outbreaks.
In South Sudan, domestic violence is widespread and largely tolerated. In the all-too-common words of two young women from Warrap State: "We are often beaten. When we make a mistake, we are beaten -- and there are so many mistakes." It was unfortunately not surprising that gender-based violence was a major threat for women living in IDP and refugee camps.
Women's organizations, governments and United Nations entities celebrated the 15th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325. This landmark resolution stated that women's participation, security and protection were essential in the prevention and resolution of armed conflict. This resolution was much heralded at the time and was followed by seven additional resolutions on women, peace and security. However, civil society organizations have observed again and again that these strong words have not been translated into action.
We need policies that enable the poorest to benefit most from economic growth. Of the 1.1 billion people living in extreme poverty in 2010, 200 million could have escaped extreme poverty if poor people had simply benefited equally from the proceeds of growth -- particularly women and youth, two groups being left behind.
The absence of female voices in public policy debates is not simply a matter of demographic representation. Without women's voices, and more specifically feminist voices, we lose the perspective that strong women bring to the table and we lose the potential for far better politics and policies that champion the rights and interests of both women and men.
Election season is heating up. The leaders debate on economic policy is almost upon us. And my mother wants me to say a few things to those who aspire to lead our country. She wants me to say that, as a strong woman who is the mother of a strong woman and grandmother of a strong granddaughter, we need to do better.
The number of conflicts -- especially intra-state conflicts -- is on the rise worldwide, contributing to record numbers of forcibly displaced people in 2014. Many of these conflicts are marked by violent extremism and acts of gender-based violence and abuse. The practice and policy of war and security have traditionally been dominated by men. Women and girls are almost always excluded from the political processes that are essential for peace and security: between 1992 and 2011, less than four per cent of signatories to peace agreements and fewer than 10 per cent of negotiators at peace tables were women. Yet, there is solid evidence that women's participation in peace negotiations contributes to more lasting peace.
The searing images of three-year-old Alan Kurdi have moved through cyberspace and galvanized reaction around the world. For Canadians, there are layers and hard questions that go further than our basic human response of sorrow. That's because Alan Kurdi's family could and should have been in Canada by now.