Tag Archives: women’s rights

Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week

12 Feb

The two little girls in my life are more precious than anything else I have accomplished so far. My daughters are precious to me and to my family, however, I was privileged enough to have a supportive and stable partner, to have the financial means of raising a child and to have a strong support system surrounding me. More importantly, the choice of having a child was MY choice, not anyone else’s. Every woman should have the right to choose what is best for her body, for her well-being and for her life.

Being pro-choice is about caring for other women enough that we provide them with options and resources so they don’t have to be put into precarious situations. There are a few reasons why being pro-choice is safer. First, laws against abortion do not stop abortion; they simply make it less safe. Death due to complications of abortion account for about 13% of all deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, and almost all of those happen in countries where the procedure is illegal. Making abortion illegal doesn’t save any babies, it just kills women (source.)


Second, reproductive choice can be the only thing that stands between a woman and poverty. There is a reason that the 1 billion poorest people on the planet are female. In sub-Saharan Africa and west Asia, women typically have five to six children, which leaves them powerless to provide for not only their own families, but themselves (source.)

 Third, without publicly funded contraceptive services, there would be 40% more abortions each year in the US. The rate among teens would increase by 58%. The teen birth rate and births to unmarried women would both increase by about 25%. Also, low-income and minority women who do not want to become pregnant are twice as likely as other women to be non-users of contraceptives (source.) *Note: American statistics were used because no comparable Canadian stats could be found.


At Nellie’s, we recognize that the control of women’s sexuality is another facet of the oppression they face. Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week is an opportunity to educate and empower women to take charge of their own sexuality and their own lives. Please join us in empowering our sisters, our mothers, our daughters and all of the other women in our lives.

*written by Nellie’s Social Justice Committee member.


16 Days: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World

27 Nov

“From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!”

This is the theme for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.  Organizers say that militarism creates a culture of fear and promotes violent forms of masculinity which endanger women.  According to the United Nations around 90% of war casualties are civilians, mostly women and children. A century ago 90% of those who lost their lives were military personnel.

This year the 16 Days Campaign’s focus on militarism centers on three priority areas:

1. Violence by State Actors such as army and police, who believe they can commit crimes with impunity and use the need for “security” as an excuse for violence and intimidation. A recent report by the ROJ Women Association revealed that Kurdish women activists in Turkey regularly endure horrific acts of violence by Turkish security forces including torture, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and psychological abuse. Unfortunately, only 10% of the women who endure such violence come forward to share their stories, and even then, they are regularly dismissed by the State. As is the case in so many other instances of violence against women, if there is no proper punishment for perpetrators, the violence will continue indefinitely.

2. The Role of Small Arms such as guns and machetes. According to the The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) women’s network  there are nearly 900 million small arms in the world today, and more than 75% are in the hands of private individuals—mostly men. Having a small weapon in the home increases the overall risk of someone being murdered by 41% and for women the risk is nearly tripled.  Here’s a short video from Switzerland advocating for the removal of firearms from the home:

3. Sexual Violence during and after conflict.  After a conflict ends, sexual violence continues as a tactic to reinforce hierarchies and humiliate women and their communities. Many women’s organizations have questioned the use of terms like “post-conflict” when brutal violence still takes place on a daily basis. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, estimates that 420,000 women per year are subject to sexual violence.  Eve Ensler’s V-Day is one organization dedicated to ending violence in countries in conflict like the DRC.  If you want to take action now to end rape and gender violence in conflict zones, you can sign this petition from the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Violence in Conflict.

At Nellie’s we support many women who are dealing with trauma from militarism in Canada and around the world. Some of our staff have, themselves, experienced and witnessed this trauma and tomorrow we will share one of their stories.

Nellie McClung and the Famous Five

5 Mar

People often ask us the history of our name “Nellie’s Women’s Shelter.”  In 1973, when Nellie’s was founded by a group of women activists, including  June Callwood, they chose to name our organization after Nellie McClung, feminist, politician, social activist and one of the “Famous Five” who fought for women to be recognized as persons under the law, eligible to hold seats in Canadian Parliament.

(Nellie McClung)

On August 27th, 1927, Nellie McClung along with Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards, filed a petition to Canada’s Supreme Court asking the question “Does the word “persons” in the British North America Act include female persons?”  Less than a year later, the Supreme Court came back with the answer: “No.”  Obviously dissatisfied, the women took this case to a higher level of authority, the Privy Council in England, which was then Canada’s highest court.  On October 18th 1929 they finally got an answer:

“The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours.  And to those who would ask why the word “person” should include females, the obvious answer is, why should it not?”

Following this decision, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby and Louise McKinney went on to be elected into the Alberta Legislature, Henrietta Muir Edwards helped establish the National Council of Women, and Emily Murphy continued her work as the British Empire’s first female judge.  It is our honour that two of Nellie’s McClung’s granddaughters, Emily and Caitlin McClung volunteer at Nellie’s. You can meet the McClung sisters at LEAF’s Annual Persons Day Breakfast.

We are proud that our organization is richly grounded in the advancement of women’s rights in Canada. Just as the Famous Five identified women’s denial of legal “personhood” as a barrier to the full participation and inclusion of women in society, Nellie’s work today continues to identify barriers that make it difficult for women to leave abusive situations such as lack of affordable housing and childcare and an immigration system that keeps women vulnerable and in danger.  In the spirit and memory of Nellie McClung and the Famous Five, we remain committed to the work of ending violence so that all women may live free from fear, able to contribute as full and participating members of society.

International Women’s Day Blog Series Begins

1 Mar

Today marks the one-week countdown to International Women’s Day!

International Women’s Day is  important at Nellie’s because it offers us an opportunity to pause, reflect, and celebrate the great strides and achievements made by women, while renewing our efforts to continue to work for women’s equality, justice and peace.

The idea of having a Women’s Day began in the early 1900’s as a response to the rapid changes and deteriorating conditions that were occuring in women’s lives as a result of industrialization. The United States first recognized International Women’s Day in 1909, with Europe following a few years later. The United Nations officially marked the day in 1975, with Canada following shortly afterwards to recognize March 8th as International Women’s Day.

Here are some reasons why International Women’s Day remains important today:

1) Around the world a woman dies in childbirth or complications from childbirth every 90 seconds.
2) Of the world’s 1.3 billion poor people, it is estimated that nearly 70% are women.
3) Of the world’s nearly one billion illiterate adults, two-thirds are women
4) In most countries (including Canada) women work approximately twice the unpaid time (ie: childcare and housework) that men do.
5) An estimated 20 million unsafe abortions are performed worldwide every year, resulting in the deaths of 70,000 women.
6) Each year an estimated two million girls suffer the practice of female genital mutilation.
7) Worldwide, 20-50% of women experience violence during marriage.
(Source: Women at a Glace, United Nations Report.)

Whether it’s speaking out about violence against women, demanding better access to pre and post-natal healthcare, encouraging more women to enter the political sphere and leadership roles, or educating young girls and boys about sexism, heterosexism, racism and other discriminatory behaviour, International Women’s Day presents an opportunity to start and continue the conversation about gender roles and gender equality.

Over the next 7 days we look forward to celebrating the achievements of women and joining with other women’s organizations in a committment to a future where everyone has a chance to thrive and prosper in peace and equality.  Stay tuned tomorrow for information on International Women’s Day celebrations in the GTA.

International Women Human Rights Defenders Day

29 Nov

Today, November 29th is International Woman Human Rights Defenders Day.  It is a day to draw attention to the very important work that women around the world are doing to ensure that women’s rights are human rights.

Ensuring the rights, health and well-being of women is to ensure the future of humanity. For decades, international policies protecting the rights of women have been promised, but a global scan of the lives of women around the world today show a vast majority trapped in lives filled with suffering and pain. A global context of racism, classism and sexism work together to create 3 primary barriers that prevent women and their children from living healthy and happy lives: 1) War -perpetuated by a military-industrial complex 2) Poverty -perpetuated by corporate greed and globalization and  3) Violence against women -perpetuated by patriarchal legal systems and decision-makers who protect the status quo.

Rape and sexual violence have long been associated with war and armed-conflict. In the Democratic Republic of Congo alone, an estimated 1,100 rapes are reported each month – that’s an average of 36 women and girls raped each day! It is estimated that during the conflict in Bosnia in the early 1990’s, up to 200,000 women were raped.

Abject poverty can be blamed for the booming business of human trafficking of women and children for slavery or sex work at an estimated USD $32 billion a year, rivaling the economies of some small countries. Dowry murders, honour killings, the prevalence of HIV-AIDS, breast pressing, female genital mutilation, traumatic gynecologic fistula caused by early sexual abuse of girls, female infanticide and a lack of health care (especially reproductive health care) for women result in the staggering truth that in our world today, among women aged 15 to 44, acts of violence cause more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.

Today,  on International Woman Human Rights Defenders Day, we recognize the courage of women and the organisations that work tirelessly to address these issues with the goal of achieving human rights and equality for all women. Women such as Tawakkol Karman, journalist and President of the NGO Women Journalists without Chains who has long campaigned against human rights violations in Yemen. This October, three days after Karman received notification of being awarded the Nobel Peace prize for her efforts to advance the rights of women in Yemen, she and fellow women activists rallying against the government, were forced to endure the pelting of stones thrown by pro-government thugs.  For more information on Women Human Rights Defenders, please visit the Woman Human Rights Defenders International Coalition.

How can you make a difference and be a human rights defender?

1) Recognize inequality and encourage change

2) End the abuse of power by those who inflict suffering on those most vulnerable in our communities and around the world by demanding human rights for all women and children.

3) Support women and children to empower themselves and to take control over their own bodies, wages and lives

4) Advocate for ending violence, poverty, homelessness and the oppression of women and children

5) Volunteer your talents or make a donation to an organisation that is working to improve the quality of life for women and children

“…the full and complete development of a country, the welfare of the world and the cause of peace require the maximum participation of women on equal terms with men in all fields.”  ~1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) ratified by 180 nation/states around the world