The recent federal election resulted in a new Parliament that will look like, well, much the same as the last one. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that a new federal cabinet will be sworn in this month, and that there will be an equal number of female and male ministers, which is great news. The Prime Minister also said that Parliament will resume with a throne speech and a renewed policy agenda later this fall. It is anticipated that this election, for all its controversy, will produce a degree of political stability for at least a period of time.
There are many issues that demand thoughtful consideration, from reconciliation with Indigenous peoples to addressing climate change and its impacts on food security, to ending poverty and gender-based violence. These are all issues of human rights. As an international volunteer cooperation agency, Crossroads International intends to act as both advocates here at home and through our work on the ground in support of local partners in the South.
A POST-COVID WORLD MUST PUT WOMEN AND GIRLS FIRST
And act we must. This is a critical moment for women and girls. The affects of COVID-19 continue to have a devastating impact on many around the world, and on the vulnerable communities in which we work in particular. Consider, more than 60% of people in sub-Saharan Africa have lost income the last 18 months. It is also important to remember, that while we may see a light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic here in Canada once children can be vaccinated, in sub-Saharan Africa, just 3% of the population has received their shots. With women most often caregivers in their families and to the ill, they are doubly impacted, both more at risk of contracting the deadlier Delta variant, and suffering the loss of income earned outside the home.
Returning to a place where we can once again direct our attention to objectives such as the Sustainable Development Goals will also come with a wake-up call: the United Nations estimates that we are 10-15 years behind the 2030 target. Without a significant recommitment and corresponding increase in support for women and girls, violence, oppression and poverty will expand. UNICEF notes that there are currently 650 million women and girls who were married before their 18th birthday. This number is estimated to increase by another 120 million girls by 2030 without action now. The consequences on the health, education, and welfare of girls and women due to early and forced marriage are stark.
THE MOVEMENT OF GENDER EQUALITY CHAMPIONS STARTS WITH YOU
Which leads me to International Day of the Girl on October 11. I cannot think of a year where so many risks to girls’ futures were converging, from the pandemic to climate change, to ongoing abuses of their basic rights. This is where you come in. Crossroads is building a movement for change – to end poverty and champion equality – through the #IAMACROSSROADER campaign. I urge you to stay informed and join the movement.
For the 10th year, Crossroads will be hosting its flagship event: the International Day of the Girl Breakfast, to support our work on behalf of girls’ rights, on October 7. We are thrilled to have international lawyer and advocate for women and girls, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, as our keynote speaker. More information on our event is available here: 10th Annual Day of the Girl Breakfast.
However you recognize International Day of the Girl this year, I urge you to remember not only the challenges posed and the work still to be done, but the hope that exists if we are able to secure a better future for women and girls in the Global South.