When the headlines fade, the daily, persistent, and pervasive violence against girls and women around the world will continue unabated and generally unreported. And it will persist until people and their governments start connecting the dots between these headline-making atrocities and the everyday, out of the headlines, violence targeted at girls and women on public streets, in the household, in the workplace, and in and around schools and why these incidents happen.
The officials revealed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was about to announce that Canada would renew its five-year $2.85-billion commitment to saving the lives of mothers, babies, and children who die needlessly from preventable causes around the world every year. After we digested that, there were lots of smiles in the room.
The latest headlines about the kidnapping of some 300 Nigerian girls are part of an even larger and generally unreported story -- the widespread, worldwide tolerance of violence against women and girls. While the kidnapping is clearly an act perpetrated by an extremist group, it is also much more than that.
Hallmark Canada estimated Canadians would buy 10 to 12 million Valentine's Day cards in 2013. That's about $27 to $29-million- on cards. Think of the trees that are cut down for those cards. Instead of destroying trees, why not plant them as a permanent marker of your love for them and love of the land?
During the ice storm, people on my street helped each other in a number of ways, from providing food and shelter to clearing tree branches. People rose to the occasion. The community came together. Whether it is in Toronto, Tacloban or the South Sudanese capital of Juba, neighbours are the first responders. They are the ones who will rescue us from the rubble.
In recent weeks, we have heard statements from leaders on the international stage that we are on the path to eradicating absolute poverty in the next two decades. I'd prefer we wait to 2030 to really celebrate how much we did to close the gap and assure that these numbers reflect all countries and the people in them -- and that no one gets left behind.
We've seen an increasing amount in the news about Mali lately. A West African country in the grips of a conflict so brutal almost 400,000 people, mainly women and children, have had to flee their homes. With these concerns in mind, Plan has been stepping up our regular programs in Mali to help people through this period in their lives.
While "Giving Tuesday" hasn't fully migrated north to Canada, the idea behind it is appealing. With all the ads and other reminders to shop and give at this time of year, I think it's worth stepping back for a moment to consider how and why we give and also the far-reaching results certain gifts can generate.
Hurricane Sandy certainly got our attention. Billions of dollars (and counting) in damages. Communities crippled and left in the cold without electricity. Nearly 200 lives lost. Sadly, with the stark realities of climate change and frequency of extreme weather events, this likely won't be the last natural disaster we experience or witness in our lifetime or even this decade. So, what are we to do about that?
On October 11, 2012 the world marked the first-ever International Day of the Girl. The celebration was bittersweet, though, given it occurred against the backdrop of worldwide shock and headlines concerning 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a young activist from Pakistan, shot in the head by a Taliban member because of her ongoing work and advocacy to ensure more girls get to go to school.
Canadian actress and emerging playwright, Sarena Parmar, has performed in film, television and on the stage. In this in-depth interview on Extraordinary Women TV with Shannon Skinner, Parmar discusses her rapid rise in her acting career, how her South Asian background has influenced her work, her interest in human rights and advocacy, and also her involvement with Plan Canada's "I Am A Girl" campaign.
This fall, we released a report from this study called, Hopes and Dreams, which provides a detailed look into the girls' lives at the tender age of five. There was good news: the majority of the girls in our study have parents who have high aspirations for them and who promote gender equality in their households.
Just a few days ago I joined Canada's newly appointed Minister of International Cooperation, Julian Fantino on a trip to Burkina Faso in West Africa. Throughout this visit I was struck by many sights and sounds that will stay with me for a long time -- evidence of how the crisis is affecting lives, how people are coping, and what more needs to be done to avert a crisis from becoming an all-out catastrophe.
This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Ghana as youth ambassador with Plan Canada. We know that young educated girls are vital for the growth of a community, but seeing it firsthand is a whole other kind of understanding. Ghana is no longer that faraway place that you might hear about on TV. It's a country full of youth just life us who can transform their community if they have the right tools to do so.
In the course of my work at Plan I see so many young people with great potential of their own who have so few opportunities to explore or express it. Still, they bravely persist in striving to make their mark on the world, even in contexts of deprivation and conflict. Programs like Girls Making Media and International Youth Day, youth are changing the world.
Since appeals first went out for donations to the east African famine, relief agencies have reported that approximately $16 million has come in from Canada. The figure for Britain, however, stands at £45 million in public donations. Why? It is our lack of organizational ability to combine our efforts that fails.
The Humanitarian Coalition, which I believe to be inspired by a similar British organization, is a group of seasoned NGO organizations who think that by working together on issues, they can get more done. But it's what they offer to confused Canadian donors that might well prove their most pivotal contribution.