This letter was written in hope that in an upcoming meeting of Global Affairs Canada, the funding for women doing grassroots work, the work being done by so many World Pulse sisters, will be considered a priority. It has never been more clear to me that women are doing most of the work in this world, with the least amount of money, usually with no money at all. It is time for this to change.
To Global Affairs Canada/Feminist Foreign Policy
Thank you for this opportunity to submit a written contribution to be considered at your upcoming meeting. It is heartening to know that you are in discussion of how Canada can provide better support internationally, toward a world in which together we can bring feminist ideals of peace and security to the global community. Not many countries in the world recognize the need for feminist action.
I am writing to you, my Government Officials, as a Canadian citizen, and as a feminist who has been active since the 1960s, currently deep at work within the organization of World Pulse as one of its ambassadors. World Pulse is a global network of 70,000 from 190 countries working together to create change, an end to all forms of suppression of and violence toward women and girls in particular, and to bring the leadership of women forward, toward a peaceful world for all and for the survival of our planet. World Pulse is built on the stories of women: what is happening, what needs to change and what we are doing about it. As a feminist who has always volunteered my time, with extensive knowledge of what is needed and deep determination to end this violence towards women and girls globally, I am writing directly with a message that half a century has been a long time of promises from my Government, and I am writing with a global call for governments to pay attention to the fact that most of the unpaid work in this world, and most of the emergency work, is done by women with little or no money. It is time for the governments of the world and certainly for my Government of Canada, who I believe sincerely desires to be of assistance and is able to be of assistance, to together find a way to put in place the money that is needed to literally save the lives of women and girls, and to put into the hands of the grassroots women already doing this work, the money that is needed to create the societal changes that we have been talking about for a long time, with far too little action.
Reports of extra levels of emergency have been called out from across Canada and from around the world, an unmistakeable increase in violence against women and girls, happening with the onset of COVID-19. The lack of government response here and around the world to the need for safe houses for women to run to, for the need to address poverty, for the need to heed the call of the Secretary General of the UN to end all of these wars that continue during this pandemic, all amount to Governments such as ours, who have numerous Members who I sincerely believe want to have a positive effect, being stuck in ineffectiveness when what we need is fast emergency action.
It is because of my belief that your Department does want to create effective change, and acknowledging the disadvantage that is still the lived experience of women, that I offer the following observations and suggestions.
Heed the call for the Secretary General to end all wars, so that we can tend to all in need. Violence against women and girls is always increased in war, and from World Pulse women reporting from war zones, we are aware that this violence toward women and children is on the increase. The women in Cameroon, in the midst of a four-year war, have formed a peace group across the divisions of men fighting with each other, calling out for peace. They need support. Efforts to even get coverage in the Canadian news about this outstanding and courageous peace group and their need for international intervention to save lives, have been met with silence. We do trade of millions of dollars with Cameroon and we have diplomatic relations there with representatives both in Cameroon and Ottawa. The women in this peace group have been working without funding and picking up the pieces supporting the victims of this war for four years now, and calling out for international attention to this disaster. World Pulse women in the DRC have also been calling for an end to war, as have women in Yemen, Ethiopia, Kashmir, Afghanistan, and so many other countries. The grassroots women in warring countries need support for their work keeping people alive, mourning those who have died, and for supporting women and girls who have been raped.
When Covid struck, there were many communities who were not helped by their governments. World Pulse women have been calling out for support to get food, water, masks and information to these communities. The small women’s centres that have been painstakingly built, have been safe havens for women to come to for help, for food and medicine, for emotional support, for whatever safe housing can be pieced together. These grassroots leaders need funding. Women have called out for support to women here who do not have access to significant money and some funding has been scraped together, but not what is needed. These are the women who are holding their communities together while governments ignore the responsibility to their people, and while countries continue to do trade as usual, benefitting only a few. It is time for women to be paid for their work and for the resources of all countries to go to the social, educational and medical needs of the people, even more blatantly obvious with the effect of COVID-19.
I have read through the intentions of your meeting and commend you on your recognition of the still subservient position that women all too often hold in so many ways in this world. I commend you on your determination to place funds in the hands of those who will use them well and effectively. In line with what you have described as your intentions, please allow me to suggest the following:
Support peace and security by getting money to the grassroots women who are working in the war zones.
Support the addressing of poverty and the achieving of developmental goals by getting money to the grassroots women who are running the small women centres, who are teaching skills that lead to economic independence, who are raising funds to get girls into schools, to support women widowed with life’s work stolen from them, and to the women who are travelling to communities that have been forgotten or ignored by the governments. This includes the women farmers who are growing food sustainably and for the protection of our planet.
Send money to the women leaders who are offering support to people with disabilities, and in particular to women with disabilities, as by far they are the ones who are ignored.
Continue your initiatives to press the members of the UN in this call for a global cease fire and invite the women who are peacemakers in their own communities at this very moment, to the table.
Find ways to support the women's organizations who are pressing for the freedom of all of the women sitting in jails in various countries, for their work toward the liberation of women.
Support the grassroots women who are working for the health, economic and social freedom of women and to keep girls from being forced into marriages, to assist women without medical help in giving birth, or for medical needs being ignored because they are women, for women needing contraception. Support the women working to end breast ironing and FGM.
Bring these grass roots, dedicated, hard-working women to the negotiating tables.
Prioritize those who need support the most, addressing poverty, disability, violence, war zones, refugee camps.
Pay close attention to the women who are building alliances with grassroots work. Support the women who are doing this work.
Be in close touch with women's organizations such as ours, because we know who's doing the work, and we know what needs to be done.
Speak with the grassroots feminists here in Canada about the shelters that have lost funding during this emergency, and with those of us who are working globally, either virtually or in person. We have the answers to what is needed, who is working on it, and who is being held back because of the lack of support, the support that you and your organization want to offer effectively.
Thank you for this opportunity to send in suggestions. I believe that with closer connections made between Government Departments such as yours, and the women doing such urgent grassroots work, we will find a way together to bring the changes we are all working toward, long before another half century. We are here together to make this happen. I wish you well with your work and would welcome further discussion.