Crossroads International is marking Canada’s 29th International Development Week by highlighting the many Canadians who are volunteering overseas to advance women’s rights and economic empowerment. This year’s theme for International Development Week is Together for Gender Equality.
“Canadians from all walks of life are working to further women’s rights by volunteering with Crossroads International,” said Christine Campbell, National Director of External Relations for Crossroads International. “Women and girls in the South, where Crossroads works, are particularly vulnerable. Canadians of all backgrounds and walks of life, women and men, newcomers, and citizens with a passion for justice and equality are making an important contribution to Canada’s international development efforts.”
In many countries, societal attitudes towards women and an absence of legal protections threaten the safety and well-being of women and girls. Canadian volunteers contribute to efforts to lift communities out of poverty, protect women from violence, and strengthen their rights. Consider, in eSwatini, 63% of the population live below the country’s poverty line; 31% of women are living with HIV. In Ghana, a country that has legal protections for women, one third of women experience physical violence. The child marriage rate is 29%.
Together, we are stronger
With more than 60 years’ experience in overseas volunteer cooperation, Crossroads connects Canadians with local partners to build the capacity of those organizations in support of women’s rights, security, and empowerment. Among some of the Canadians currently or recently overseas volunteering in support of gender equality are:
• Anthony Gebrehiwot and Randell Adjei are two of the leaders of RISE, a youth arts and leadership organization based in Toronto. The organization served as a project partner with Crossroads for WILDAF’s Boys for Change program in Ghana. The program is an empowerment program that supports boys to develop healthy and positive relationships with girls and women and to challenge oppressive cultural norms. Anthony and Randell are returning to Ghana in a few weeks to follow-up on the development of a follow-up on a for Change curriculum, working with facilitators to show how they can incorporate the manual into a program focused on transitioning from a boy to a man, incorporating safe sex, consent, rights and treatment of girls and women, and goal setting.
• Atinuke (Tinu) Chineme returned home to Calgary just days ago from a volunteer assignment in Tanzania working with Crossroads’ partner Tanzania Gender Networking Programme as a strategic planning advisor. Tinu helped the organization develop their 2020 business strategy by reviewing current approaches, interviewing staff and stakeholders, and identifying achievable outcomes and making recommendations. For this assignment Tinu drew on her Master’s research project in non-profit needs assessment and her private sector career as an engineer in renewable energy.
• Robert Trudel, a lawyer from Victoriaville, Quebec, is a longtime international volunteer. He is currently evaluating progress achieved through Crossroads’ partner projects in Tanzania, one of the most challenging countries in the world to be a woman – almost half of all Tanzanian women have faced physical or sexual violence. Mr. Trudel’s analysis will help guide Crossroads’ and its partners’ work going forward, including by supporting women who have been victims of domestic abuse and facilitating girls’ advocacy on rights and education. He volunteered earlier this year in Ghana, as part of Crossroads’ Access to Justice Program. Mr. Trudel worked with local partners to oversee the monitoring of the application of domestic violence prevention laws by judges, lawyers, and the police.
• Asia Clarke is a jewelry artist and a graduate student who served two volunteer mandates in 2018, in Ghana and eSwatini (Swaziland) respectively. Clarke worked with local organizations supporting women entrepreneurs – those escaping sex work and abuse or as the head of families seeking to emerge from extreme poverty – to share her experience and ideas on aesthetic design and branding to help them further their own jewelry businesses. Ms. Clarke’s academic studies focus on the sustainability of women’s economic empowerment programs as part of international aid policy. She will be returning to Ghana this summer on another volunteer assignment while supporting her research.
“These Canadian volunteers are the secret ingredient in Canada’s overseas development strategy,” said Ms. Campbell. “They work with our partners in some of the poorest countries in the world to affect change and return home with a renewed commitment to global equality. They should be celebrated.