Giving Tuesday: Supporting the future of girls

Today, Tuesday, December 2, is Giving Tuesday, an international initiative that kickstarts the season of giving. It comes after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, standing alone as a day, not about commodities and buying just to buy, but, about making a difference and changing the world in which we live.

There are a surplus of charities and charitable events you can donate to today (trust me, I work for many). I encourage you to support the causes close to you heart not only on this special day, but at times you see fit.

Though North America’s perception of women has changed since over the last century, we still need to work on gender equality and stereotypes both in our own backyards and overseas. There are many other countries in this world where girls still cannot go to school, where women still do not have the ability to choose if they want a career, motherhood or both, where women are illiterate and not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative. If they do leave, they could get harassed or killed.

I caught up with Diane Meaghan, a retired teacher currently leading research studies at the University of Toronto. She is also one of the contacts for the Feminist Book Discussion Group, which takes place the first Wednesday of every month at North York Public Library. On Thursday, December 4, the group will discuss “I Feel Great About my Hands,” edited by Shari Graydon, a Canadian author and activist.

For Meaghan, gender inequality is the longest struggle in human relations, followed closely by class and ethnicity.

“Much of mainstream literature does not take up gender relations or portray women in a positive light through discussions of equality and social justice regarding gender,” Meaghan says.

With that said, changing the status of women is therefore a very complex and slow process. This complex process often involves targeting the biggest misconceptions about feminists: They are all misguided, angry, man hating lesbians and people who disavow marriage and motherhood.  As we see in books like Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, this isn’t exactly the case. And – men can be feminists, too!

As we continue to develop feminism in North America and conquer these misconceptions (a feminist can be a woman who wears a dress and wants to have children one day, you know), let’s also support the following Canadian organizations that work to better the lives of women and girls both in the country we call home and abroad.

For those of us who don’t know who to support today, on Giving Tuesday, here are four Canadian organizations that give women and girls a future.

Girls Action Foundation:

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Girls Action Foundation is a national charitable organization that leads girls’ programs across Canada, building girls’ and young women’s skills and confidence. The organization works to inspire girls and young women so they too can continue to change the world. The Foundation offers innovative programs, oversees research and provides support to a network of over 300 partnering organizations and projects all working towards the same goal.

The Foundation reaches over 60,000 girls and young women in remote, marginalized and urban communities, offering classes like their Media Arts Workshop which gives girls and young women the tools to explore radio and video production, photography and ‘zine making. Also offering a workshop series, Girls Action delivers classes through schools and community organizations in Canada for girls and young women to address issues that impact them directly. These sessions are designed to encourage participants to explore self-esteem, violence prevention and healthy relationships – with family, friends and significant others.

Donate to Girls Action Foundation on Giving Tuesday. Click here.

The Aninga Project:

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The Aninga Project is a Canadian non-profit and educational initiative that supports and encourages the education of girls in Africa. It pays for school fees and other related expenses, like uniforms, books and school supplies, so girls can pursue an education. Currently, The Aninga Project’s focus is on sending girls to school in Uganda and aims to empower African women by providing them with the means to acquire an education that would otherwise be out of reach.

The Project is a federally registered Canadian charity and is incorporated in the province of Nova Scotia. It came together when Jenny Benson, president, and her family became friends with a young Zimbabwean woman named Constance. They met at the 2006 International AIDS Conference in Toronto. When Constance and her husband, Dr. Asiki, settled in Uganda, Benson and her family inquired about working together at a grassroots level to create educational opportunities for young women. Constance and her husband identified a young girl who would benefit from the cause, Aninga, and Benson and her family sent money from Canada so her school fees and other necessities would be paid for.

Aninga lives in a village in northern Uganda, which is close to both Sudan and The Democratic Republic of Congo, where educational opportunities are generally scarce. For females, these opportunities are virtually non-existent. According to The Project’s website, Aninga recently scored the highest in her school on her exit exams from elementary school and has been accepted into high school.

Now, The Project is also supporting seven additional girls.

Donate to The Aninga Project on Giving Tuesday. Click here.

Literature for Life:

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Literature for Life, a non-profit organization in Toronto founded in 2000, is committed to helping marginalized young mothers develop their reading practice to successfully access opportunities. Lydia Parent, Manager of Communications and Operations at Literature for Life, told A Quarter Young earlier this year that participating in the organization’s programming allows moms to engage with books and ensure their children are also reading.

The Toronto-based organization has workshops, programs and reading circles, one of the latter called Women With Words (WWW). It is designed to suit the needs for a different approach to learning for marginalized young moms. Many clients who participate in the WWW circles have been victims of abuse, violence or neglect. The reading circle program offers participants a safe, non-judgmental environment, where they can overcome any feelings of isolation.

When moms first enter the groups, Parent says they have a wall up that often prevents the facilitator and the young mothers from connecting. The Literature for Life representative also says that the programs encourage members to read out loud, which can be a great challenge but an even greater confidence builder, especially as it requires trusting the group of people in the room and the facilitator.

“It must be understood that these women have been victims of physical and emotional abuse, neglect, homelessness, discrimination and are economically disadvantaged,” Parent says. “Honestly, reading isn’t on their minds nor is it a priority. So, trusting each other, trusting the books and having confidence that this will help them put food on the table, be better parents or improve their chances of employment is a common goal for mothers when they first join a circle.”

Donate to Literature for Life on Giving Tuesday. Click here.

Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan:

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Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan) is a member-based, non-profit that was founded in 1996 with 13 volunteer chapters in Canada. CW4WAfghan hopes to advance the education and educational opportunities for Afghan women and their families. It also aims to educate Canadians about human rights in Afghanistan.

Donor funded projects fall in two main program areas: Community Library and Literacy Program and Investments in Public Education. Within these program areas include literacy classes for adult women and out of school girls, school and community libraries, science lab starter kits and training for teachers. For a full list of programs, click here.

CW4WAfghan aims to raise a minimum of $700,000 per year to meet program funding objectives.

Donate to CW4WAfghan on Giving Tuesday. Click here.

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