Gender Inequality in Canada – Lessons from Iceland

Where Does Canada Rank?

On September 19th, former Conservative MP and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, referred to the Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as a “climate Barbie” on Twitter (see the exchange here). McKenna responded by saying, “We need more women in politics [and] your sexist comments won’t stop us.” When a right-wing reporter used the same name-calling tactic, Mckenna again had to fight back (and she doesn’t regret it!) As these examples suggest, gender inequality still exists Canada, despite our reputation as one of the best countries in the world to live in. If you attended the UNA-V Day of the Girl Event last month in Burnaby, you will have already taken part in the important conversation that needs to be had on this topic.

When it comes to living standards, Canada ranks in the top ten globally based on the Human Development Index (HDI). In terms of seeing how progressive a country is socially, Canada ranks 6th in the world based on the Social Progress Index (SPI). According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), three of the top five cities in the world for livability are in Canada (Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary). However, when it comes to measuring and comparing gender inequality, Canada does not rank as high as it does in other categories. Comparing Iceland, the most “gender equal” country to Canada shows this.

For most of the last decade, Iceland has been ranked number one in Global Gender Gap Report, a report that the World Economic Forum publishes each year measuring gender equality of 144 countries based on combination of four categories (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment).

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-23 at 9.58.25 PMIn the 2016 report, Canada was ranked 35th globally with a score of 0.731 (0.000 meaning complete inequality and 1.000 meaning complete equality). In the new report for the year 2017, Canada moved up 19 places to rank 16th globally. The biggest improvement since last year was in the category of Political Empowerment (measures the gap between men and women in the parliamentary and ministry positions) where Canada moved up 29 places. However, if we consider all categories together and when we look at the data over the last twenty four years from wage gaps to promotions in the workplace, Canada has shown little improvement relative to other major industrialized countries. In fact, the highest ranking that Canada ever achieved since the publications of the report started in 2006, was in the same year where they ranked 14th globally. The Globe and Mail wrote an article regarding the persistent problem of gender inequality in Canada and it pointed out, “If the trend isn’t addressed, long-term drawbacks for our economy will be unavoidable”.

As we will see in the data presented in this article, much more has to be done in order to combat gender inequality and why a stronger progressive agenda needs to be put forward, similarly to what has happened in Iceland since 1975.

1975 Icelandic Women’s Strike

On October 24th, 1975 Icelandic women decided to go on strike and raise their concerns about unequal pay and labour rights for women in the country. They did not go to work that day and stopped all their normal daily activities. With ninety percent of women taking part in this protest, it meant that public services and industries such as the post offices, hospitals, schools, newspapers and more were either shut down or operated at reduced capacity. From facing relatively low wages to bias and discrimination in the workforce and in the political atmosphere, Icelandic women started a revolution that started a pathway for Iceland to become the most gender equal country in the world today. One of the very first examples of the success of the protests was when Vidís Finnbogadóttir became  the first female president to be elected to office just five years later in 1980.

Strike

 Icelandic women protesting in Reykjavík on October 24th, 1975, Photo: Loftur Ásgeirsson   Vidís Finnbogadóttir, became the first female president of Iceland

Vidís Finnbogadóttir

Comparing Iceland’s Gender Inequality to that of Canada

Child-Care Costs

Looking at the cost of child care in Iceland and Canada provides a better understanding of the differences between the two countries with regards to favourable policies for women. 

On October of 2016, Global News published a report that compared child care costs across different provinces in Canada. Due to unique universal child care system of Quebec, cities in the province had the least expensive child care costs with an average of $2088 per year. Whereas in Manitoba, the second least expensive city, the cost would rise substantially to $7812 per year. According to OECD, in Canada, families pay close to 25% of their total income on child care and for single parents it goes above 30%. These numbers rank amongst the highest in the industrial world. Consequently, there are families and single parents, most notably women, who have to stay home and look after the children. With the lack of incentive to stay in the workforce, there is less income available for families or single parents and less opportunities for their children to prosper and participate both in school and also after school activities.

By comparison, in Iceland, the cost for both parents and single parents is just around 5% of total income.

Labour Force and Workplace

We see tangible results of gender inequality when we look at the workplace itself. Women in Canada outnumber men when it comes to higher education with close to 60% of postsecondary students in the country being female. This number is also the highest in any OECD country. Nevertheless, when it comes to promotion in the workplace, it’s men who dominate. In a report 2017 report by McKinsey Global Institute, ‘The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Canada’, it was revealed that in Canada women are 30% less likely to be promoted from entry level to manager, 60% less likely to go from director to vice-president and only make 15% of CEO’s in the country.

In 2010 in Iceland, a law was passed that made it obligatory for companies to have at least 40% of either gender on their boards. This would not only allow for more women to enter and stay in the workforce but inspire the next generation of women to not limit their career choices and have an understanding that they deserve to be part of a work environment as much as any man.

Reykjavik

Reykjavík, Iceland

According to OECD, in the year 2015, gender wage gap in Canada was near 20% (difference between full-time male and female median wages and then dividing the number by the male median wages) and was high when compared to other OECD countries and also higher than the OECD average as well. In 2005, the gender wage gap in Canada was near 21%, which means that improvements in this area has remained stagnant for the last decade. Based on the rate of improvement in gender wage gap in Canada over the last two decades, it will take close to fifty years for Canada to reach Iceland’s 2015 rate. Even though Iceland is below the OECD average by around 5%, they are still continuing to improve gender wage gap due to their robust political and cultural foundations regarding importance of gender equality in their country.

GenderWageGapChart.jpg

In early 2017, a legislature was put forward in Iceland’s parliament that will make it mandatory for companies, both private and public, to provide proof of unbiased wage pay practices to employees. Companies that are believed to show discrimination will ultimately be penalized.

When it comes to female participation rate in the workforce, Iceland leads the OECD countries with 80% females participating in the workforce. Canada has improved over the last few decades going from 45% in 1975 to around 60% today. This is actually a decent number for Canada since the OECD average is around 50%. Yet, the rate of improvement in gender inequality in Canada has unfortunately proven to be a slow one and over the last decade, Canada has continued to fall in the Global Gender Gap Index rankings, going from being 14th in the world in 2006 to 35th in 2016. Therefore, much work has to be done and still many unresolved matters need to be addressed including gender wage gaps, childcare costs, gender discrimination in the workplace, unpaid workers and more.

In 2015, Trudeau formed the first ever gender balanced cabinet in Canada with 15 out of 31 members being women (48%). This was a radical change since the cabinet of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, contained only 12 women out of 39 members (30%). The message here sent by the cabinet was simple. It was not about saying we need exactly 50% of each gender but rather about the fact that women are more than capable of holding positions that men have dominated in holding throughout the history of this country and that the cabinet is for all Canadians. In many cases it had been decades since a woman had been given the position. For example, since the position of chief of staff was created in 1987, 15 people have been given the position with 13 of them being men. This means that Katie Telford the current chief of staff, is only the second woman to have held the position of chief of staff.  

The balanced cabinet was a positive step forward for Canada but as seen with the statistics and comparisons to other major industrialized countries, evidently more needs to be done. We can look at countries such as Iceland and examine the successful policies that they have come up with over the years while also look for and create a stronger innovative vision in order to combat gender inequality in our country because not only is it economically beneficial but more importantly, morally just.

Written By UNA Vancouver blogger, Sasan Fouladirad

Sasan
Having recently received a Bachelor’s and a Masters in Economics from UBC and Queen’s University, two of the top three Economics departments in Canada, Sasan decided to spend one year outside of academia and be active in his community including writing for UNA Vancouver before returning to school for a third degree with a focus this time on Public Policy and International Affairs.

Having extensively followed the works of Economist Richard D. Wolff and Former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis since his time at UBC, Sasan started to realize how flawed the current global economic system is. As a result, economic injustice, global income and wealth inequality, global economic recessions and gender inequality are areas that Sasan has passion for and wants to continue learning more about. Sasan is currently a college instructor, teaching Mathematics and Business while also teaching students of Grades 1 to 12 at variety of other locations in Vancouver. Aside from his studies, Sasan has won three silver medals in Karate and three gold medals in Chess in the province of British Columbia and continues to train during his free time while also holding seminars throughout Vancouver for people who want to learn.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

From their cuisine to language to their sport, I love everything that Italy has to offer and one day hope to visit the country again.

 

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Athletes as Agents of Resistance and Change – November 29th @ The Liu Institute

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“Khartoon” provided by Khalid Albaih. Follow @khalidalbaih and read more about the artist [HERE].
When professional NFL football player, Colin Kaepernick, began supporting the Black Lives Matter movement by refusing to stand during the national anthems before games, he slowly ignited a wave of athlete activism in the United States. That movement exploded this fall in response to criticism from President Donald Trump when he called the athletes who knelt during the anthem “sons of bitches.” Athlete activism is far from a new development, with Muhammad Ali and Tommie Smith serving as prominent examples; however, in today’s divisive political climate and with the advent of social media, athletes have been provided with an unprecedented platform to express their political views. As a result, UNA-Vancouver in partnership with the UBC School of Kinesiology, the Centre for Sport and SustainabilityBasketball BC, and ViaSport BC are proud to bring you, “Athletes as Agents of Resistance and Change: Where are the Canadian Colin Kaepernicks?

This panel event will explore questions in four main areas: (1) How have athletes historically participated in activism and resistance movements? (2) What are the implications of both participation and non-participation? (3) Where are the athlete activists in Canada? (4) How can coaches, parents, and athletes become more politically engaged if they choose to do so?

This is a FREE PUBLIC event; however, seating is limited so please RSVP via our Eventbrite page.

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

5:30-7:00 pm – Panel event

7:00-8:00 pm – Reception

Liu Institute for Global Issues, UBC Point Grey Campus

Unceded and traditional Coast Salish territory of the Musqueam Peoples

Email questions to liv.yoon@ubc.ca

Watch the LIVESTREAM Re-cap [HERE]

Panelists

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Shireen Ahmed (@_shireenahmed_) is a writer, public speaker and sports activist who focuses on Muslim women, and the intersections of racism and misogyny in sports. Her work has been featured and discussed in various media outlets. She is part of the “Burn It All Down” feminist sports podcast team. When she isn’t watching soccer, she drinks coffee as tool of resistance. Shireen is currently working on her first book. She lives in Mississauga with her family and her cat.

Read Shireen’s Vice Sports critique about the Pittsburgh Penguin’s accepting the White House invitation  [HERE].

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Tracie Léost (@tracieleost) is a young Metis athlete and Indigenous activist. Now a scholarship student at the University of Regina, Tracie’s journey started when she took a stand and used her running shoes to give silence a voice. In August of 2015, Tracie ran 115 kilometres in just 4 days to raise money and awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada (MMIW). In 4 days, the MMIW Journey of Hope raised $6,101.00 for a local organization that helps the affected families and victims. Two years later, the MMIW Journey of Hope is a global conversation. Tracie is a role model to others as she travels the country sharing her story to end violence against women. Tracie is a We Day youth speaker and takes pride in her community. She is a coach and mentor for four hockey teams at Ehrlo Sport Venture. This program gives inner city and underprivileged youth with the opportunity to participate in sport at no cost. She spends her evenings at the outdoor hockey rink regardless of if it’s -40 or the middle of a blizzard. Tracie believes in the importance of providing youth with a safe place, and loves being a positive influence to those involved.

Tracie has been doubted most of her life enduring stereotypes as both Indigenous and female. Although she has been breaking barriers in her everyday life through sport and activism, Tracie wants to set an example for others. She wants to share her message with others so they know they are capable of anything and everything. As Tracie always says, “I’m just an ordinary kid who went out and chased my dreams regardless of what people said and believed I was capable of”.

Read more about Tracie’s activism [HERE].

cropped-PatriciaVertinskywebDr. Patricia Vertinsky is a Distinguished University Scholar and Professor of Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia.  She is a social and cultural historian working across the fields of women’s and gender history with a special interest in physical culture, physical education and modern dance. Her work focuses on the study of normalizing disciplinary regimes in kinesiology, sport science and physical culture and the social, political, and scientific context in which they have been conceived and promoted. She is particularly interested in regimes of risk and the gendered body in relation to patterns of physical culture and globalization in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Dr. Vertinsky is an International Fellow of the American Academy of Kinesiology, Past-President of the North American Society of Sport History, and past Vice-President of the International Society for Physical Education and Sport History.

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Elisabeth Walker-Young (@elisabethwy) is currently Manager of Programs at Canucks Autism Network. Her philosophy is to demystify the barriers, and lived experiences of those marginalized in society and therefore in sport to educate and equip sport leaders with tools, desire and awareness to address issues and affect change.

A Paralympian with 13 years on the Canadian Paralympic Swim Team, Elisabeth retired in 2005 having represented Canada at 4 Summer Paralympic Games from Barcelona 1992 through to Athens 2004. Throughout her swimming career, she broke numerous Canadian and World records, bringing home 6 Paralympic medals (3 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze) and was team captain for more than half of her career.

Elisabeth Walker-Young was Canada’s Assistant Chef de Mission for the London 2012 Paralympic Games and is Chef de Mission for the Canadian Team for the Toronto 2015 ParaPanAm Games. Bringing an athlete-centred perspective to this core leadership role, contributing to the planning and delivery of operations in Toronto, proudly supporting all members of Team Canada both on and off the field of play.

Her contribution to promoting the Paralympic Movement was enormous. In London, Walker-Young did hundreds of media interviews and also served as CTV’s English language commentator for the broadcasts of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and acted as a liaison with the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s (CPC) corporate and government partners during the Games. As a result of her role for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Elisabeth Walker-Young’s was named to the

Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport (CAAWS) Most Influential Women List and was also a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal, recognized as an athlete and builder.

Personally, Elisabeth, a newish mom, enjoys teaching spin classes and sharing her love and knowledge of an active healthy lifestyle with her class participants. Elisabeth loves to cook, read and be creative. A resident of North Vancouver, Elisabeth loves hiking, walking, running and snowshoeing in the trails with her husband Ian, her daughter and dog.

Moderator

Courtney Szto (@courtneyszto) is a PhD candidate at SFU in the School of Communication and the Past-President of UNA-Vancouver. Her doctoral research explores the intersections of “race”, citizenship, and sport in Canada.

In partnership with

 

 

 

 

Rosemary Brown Memorial & Conference: Gender, Sexuality & Disability Justice – Recap

The Rosemary Brown Annual Memorial Conference: A Review
By Tania Arora, volunteer blogger

“Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, ‘She doesn’t have what it takes.’ They will say, ‘Women don’t have what it takes.’”– Clare Boothe Luce

On September 23rd, the United Nations Association of Canada – Vancouver Branch, SFU Department of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies and  Rosemary Brown Award for Women Committee hosted the fourth annual Rosemary Brown Memorial Conference at the SFU Centre for Dialogue. Each year the Rosemary Brown Award for Women recognizes and honours a BC based woman or organization that promotes the values and ideals which Rosemary Brown championed during her lifetime. Established in 2004, the award is given to those who exemplify the spirit of Rosemary Brown, who was a politician, mother, grandmother and activist committed to the fight against sexism and racism.

The award ceremony featured panellists who discussed the theme of Gender, Sexuality and Disability Justice. This year’s award recipient and the keynote speaker was Dr Dana Brynelsen, a life-long disability rights activist and former Provincial Advisor for the Infant Development Program (IDP) (1975-2009). In her role as Provincial Advisor, she supported the development of 53 IDPs in communities across BC and encouraged the development of a parallel network of Aboriginal IDPs. Dr Brynelsen accepted the award on behalf of the families and staff she has worked with over many years, those who have created and improved services for children with developmental disabilities. Dana attributed the success of the work to their ability to cross boundaries that had, in the past, rarely been crossed. Key to this was the driving advocacy of parents whose sons and daughters were, for the most part, completely excluded from normal community life and activity. Dr Brynelsen expressed her gratitude by saying, “This award has special meaning for me. I knew Rosemary, initially as most others in BC knew her, as a brilliant orator, politician, and passionate champion of human rights.” She concluded with a few words about the pressing concerns facing us today, “It is true that we have made great gains over the past decades, in terms of services and support in the area of disability… but how quickly gains are eroded and lost when our values and attitudes about what is important shift.”

2017 Rosemary Brown Award Recipient: Dr Dana Brynelsen


The Rosemary Brown Undergraduate Awards in Social Justice were presented by Willeen Keough and Lara Campbell of Simon Fraser University to recipients Maisaloon Al- Ashkar and Shilpa Narayan. Shilpa is an undergraduate student majoring in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies who has been involved with Youth for a Change (Surrey), Lookout Emergency Aid Society, and the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre at the BC Children’s Hospital. Shilpa has also worked on programming for refugee youth, mental health, queer youth, and elder abuse and has given keynote speeches on mental wellness. She also runs a drop-in centre for people diagnosed with HIV. Shilpa’s dedication to her studies at Simon Fraser University and her social justice work exemplify the highest standards of community engagement and academic achievement.

Maisaloon is completing a double major in First Nations Studies and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University. She works as a women’s centre coordinator in Vancouver and has been involved with The Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) throughout her studies. Wise and sassy, she is a 20-year-old Muslim woman and displaced Palestinian who unapologetically speaks her truth.

Congratulations to all the recipients!

The Panel

Chaired by Dr Coleman Nye of Simon Fraser University, the panel explored the theme of Gender, Sexuality and Disability Justice. The first panellist, Rena Cohen of Realwheels Theatre, spoke about artistic mandate and the “Sexy Voices” creation/ performance project and how people with disabilities speak up to the world through art. The second panellist was Elisabeth Walker- Young of the Canucks Autism Network and a four-time Paralympian swimmer. In 2015 Elisabeth was chosen for the role of chef de mission (official leader and spokesperson) for Team Canada at the Para-Pan-American Games – an incredible honour that speaks volumes about her passion and reputation for advocacy. During the panel, Elisabeth spoke about the power of language and the diversity of Canada, and mobility/participation of people with disabilities. Sharing her background as an athlete, Elisabeth recounted, “By mistake, I got involved in inclusive sport and have gained so much out of it. I wholeheartedly believe that everyone — regardless of their circumstances or lived experiences — deserves the right to participate and reap the benefits of being active within their community.” Dr Delphine Labbe of University of British Columbia Occupational Science and Therapy was the third panellist. A PhD in community psychology, Labbe is interested in understanding the environmental factors that have an impact on the social participation of people with disabilities. She discussed her upcoming project on unemployment and physical ability. Our final panellist was Laura Johnston, a lawyer from the Community Legal Assistance Society and advocate for people with mental disabilities in detention. Laura conducts systemic litigation and engages in research, law reform, and lobbying efforts to improve access to justice, fairness, and the rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for marginalized populations. In her presentation, she spoke about the lack of rights afforded to those put in psychiatric institutions, such as forcible detention and a lack of legal representation once in the system. She also pointed out that our province’s outdated Mental Health Act does not meet Charter standards.

The legacy of Rosemary Brown is to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself, that progress is maintained and rights are upheld for the most vulnerable. Thank you to all of the conference participants and attendees. We look forward to continuing to honour Rosemary Brown by promoting dialogue that shines a light on overlooked and important issues.

Akanksha Thakur – 2017 Gibbard Award Recipient

Each year, UNA-Vancouver recognizes an outstanding youth or youth group dedicated to achieving the goals of the United Nations. We are pleased to announce that the 2017 John Gibbard Memorial Award for Youth will be awarded to Akanksha Thakur.

Miss Thakur is a recent graduate from Simon Fraser University and was nominated by her supervisor Heather Williams, Language and Culture Curriculum Coordinator, from SFU’s Co-Operative Education department. Williams explains:

Akanksha demonstrates her passion for equity in many ways. She has taught internationally – at a public school in Indonesia; she was recently chosen to be a Youth Ambassador for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation; and is also on the Board of Directors of an NGO named Pratham that is dedicated to educating children in the slums in India.

The Gibbard Award presentation will take place Sunday October 22nd, 2017 at the Unitarian Church (949 49th Ave. W) at 11am (no RSVP needed). We invite the public to come celebrate United Nations Day and honour Miss Thakur for endeavouring to make the world a better and more peaceful place.

The International Day of the Girl: Keys for Achieving Equality

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*Guest Post by UBC Student Ambassador, Karina Hsaio*

The Sustainable Development Agenda was created in 2016. This agenda introduced 17 different goals which are used as directives to eradicate global poverty. One of the crucial goals included is the need to achieve gender equality. International Day of the Girl is an important annual event that acknowledges the issue of gender inequality, promotes the empowerment of both women and men, and most importantly brings communities together.

Currently no country has successfully achieved gender equality; without the proper framework and policy implementations, women are made vulnerable to violence and discrimination. Countries also lack the relevant policies to prevent discrimination in the workplace, therefore women are still being treated unequally. Women worldwide earn less than men, for every dollar earned by men women earn 23 cents less. In politics, women represent a minority in national parliaments. When women’s contributions in the workplace are not valued equally, they are discouraged from entering the labour market or pursuing professional careers. Moreover, politics has long been viewed as a male profession; thus, without the participation of women, not only will this sector remain male dominated, policies related to the rights women will also lack the nuance necessary to achieve genuine equality.

BzmjOzbIIAAzJgY.png_large-500x500Education is one tool we can use to eradicate poverty and the problem of sexual violence. Women easily fall into the cycle of poverty due to lack of education qualifications. Without the equivalent skillsets required by the labour market, these women have limited choices when it comes to employment, and usually end up in temporary jobs. Not only are temporary jobs unstable, they also pay lower wages. Allowing women to participate in the market through stable employment will increase labour efficiency in companies; it allows the economy of a country to grow faster and stronger. Most importantly, a high percentage of women will be lifted from poverty.

The inability to secure permanent employment is one of the main reasons that women continue to rely on their husbands for financial support. Additionally, if the wife is also a victim of domestic abuse she may decide to remain silent for fear of financial insecurity. Educated women are employable women, and employable women are independent women.

But the empowerment of women and girls is insufficient for socio-cultural change – men and boys also need to be part of the conversation. Communities need to acknowledge the fact that gender equality is a fundamental human right. Men and boys are important actors in process of achieving gender equality because gender equality affects everyone.

When men and women are viewed as equal, the labour market will have a greater chance of achieving equal pay. Healthy relationships between both genders can only be achieved if mutual respect is developed. It is important to remember that the push towards societal change in gender equality does not mean pinpointing a specific culprit. Numerous factors contribute to creation of gender inequality, and it is the responsibility of the whole community to correct gender stereotypes and unfair behavior.

Other than promoting gender equality through the discussions in UN general assembly and hosting annual events like International Day of the Girl, the United Nations also promotes gender equality at the local level. To enable relevant skill development, UN Women supports computer training programs in South Sudan and India. Economic empowerment is promoted by encouraging women to start their own businesses. For example, in a Guatemalan village, women who were part of the indigenous community were encouraged to participate in an all-female entrepreneurship project. Through education empowerment women were given the relevant skillsets needed to participate in local elections, thus enabling them to participate in decision making.

The issue of gender equality has received high levels of attention internationally, and the United Nations serves as a vital platform for leaders and organizations to continue this work. However, changes can only be achieved if local and international entities improve and work alongside each other. On the international level, countries need to recognize gender equality as a basic human right and promote changes within their own administrations. Individuals and local organizations need to work together and ensure durable changes at the local level. Communities need to embrace the values of gender equality by improving access to education and through policy implementations. 

October 10th is Mental Health Day 

Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.15.54 PMDid you know that mental health is included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

“Promoting mental health and well-being, and the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, are integral parts of the Sustainable Development Agenda to transform our world by 2030 adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015.” Learn more about the World Health Organization 

One in five Canadians experience a mental health condition. Bmy the age of 40, 1 in 2 Canadians have or previously had a mental health condition.1 Mental health, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” 2 The mental health of a person fluctuates and at any point of time is affected by multiple stressors that may be social, psychological, and biological in nature. Mental health refers to striking a balance in all aspects of life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental. Reaching a balance is a learning process, it is not a one size fits all approach, instead it is unique for every individual. Our challenge is staying mentally healthy by maintaining the balance, which is easier said than done. While physical health is easy to measure and discussed openly, mental health is under the surface and often not discussed.. Every year on October 10, the WHO celebrates World Mental Health Day. This day is an opportunity for us to reflect on our own mental health and think about ways we can contribute towards supporting people in our community who are living with mental illnesses, as well as call attention to a timely mental health issue. The theme for this year’s issue is “Mental Health in the Workplace” 3

During our lives, we spend a significant amount of time at our workplace. Our experience at our there is one of the aspects that affects our mental well-being. Unemployment is a recognized risk factor while employment or returning to work is a protective factor against mental health problems. Conversely, employment in a negative working environment such as a workplace where individuals face bullying or psychosocial harassment adversely affect the employee’s’ mental health, which may be accountable for depression and anxiety, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism, lost productivity and a high turnover rate. In fact, mental health is seldomly considered as a key aspect of an employee’s’ health, yet, the WHO highlights depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide. A study by WHO researchers estimated that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Many of these illnesses can be treated, but access to treatment is often difficult, and stigma may prevent people from obtaining services even when they are available.4

As a healthy workplace benefits both workers and employers, therefore, the question arises, how do we create a healthy workplace? The answer is easier said than done, that is, the onus lies on both the workplace management team and its employees’ in being proactive and leading by example. However, it seems that this is seldom the case. Consequently, in July this year, an utterly empathetic response from a chief executive to his employee who was taking a break to cope with mental health issues took social media by storm. “It prompted thousands of retweets, garnered dozens of headlines when an employee who had written that she suffers from anxiety and depression, wrote an email to her colleagues saying she’d be out for a couple of days to “focus on my mental health.” Her chief executive replied by thanking her, saying every time she sends an email like that “I use it as a reminder of the importance of using sick days for mental health” and “you are an example to us all, and help us cut through the stigma.” 5 This sets a strong example of the meaning of a healthy workplace, illustrating the willingness of the employee to be open about her mental health as well as the employer positively acknowledging his employee’s needs and reminding his colleagues to do the same. This teaches us that we need to be open and acknowledge each other’s mental health needs in order to foster mental well-being in the workplace, which will help to decrease negative attitudes and discrimination and empower individuals to promote mental health and dignity for all.

The writer:
Screen Shot 2017-10-09 at 9.07.16 PMMichelle Chakraborti is a a 4th year PhD Candidate in the Experimental Medicine graduate program at the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about policy issues around child and family health. My dissertation is grounded on the World Health Organization’s framework on functioning and disability (ICF-CY) that highlights family as the most salient environmental factor affecting child development. For her dissertation, Michelle evaluate’s BC-based physical activity programs for children with neurodevelopmental disorders as an avenue to support and strengthen families’ health. Michelle is also a volunteer with the Let’s Talk Science program at UBC, a national program geared towards engaging children in science. As a part of the UNA Vancouver content writing team, she writes about issues/policies on health related to the mandate of the World Health Organization. If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why? France! I’ve always wanted to visit France ever since I learned the language as a child. I admire the culture, architecture and love the food as well as I would be able to test my language skills!

Sources

(1) Smetanin et al. (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: RiskAnalytica.

(2) http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/ (accessed October 3, 2017)

(3) http://www.who.int/mental_health/world-mental-health-day/2017/en/

(4) Report by the World Mental Health Federation on World Mental Health Day 2017 (https://www.wfmh.global/wmh-day/wmhd-theme-2017/; accessed October 5, 2017)

(5) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2017/07/14/the-mental-health-email-shared-round-the-world/?utm_term=.4917f75de3db (accessed October 5, 2017)

Image citation:

https://workplaceleeds.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/top-tips-for-celebrating-world-mental-health-day-at-your-workplace/; (accessed October 5, 2017)

Day of the Girl Panel: Hosted at Byrne Creek

Making sense of an interconnected world. Together.

Parents and students of the Burnaby School District and general members of the public are invited to attend a panel event geared to build awareness about International Day of the Girl Child and all of its implications.

The free panel event will be held at Byrne Creek Community School at 7777 18th Street in Burnaby, BC on Wednesday, October 11th from 7pm until 9pm in the Centre for Dialogue. Pre-registration is recommended at globallearning@sd41.bc.ca in order to receive updates and reminders; please email the number of people in your party, with names and the school affiliation (if in Burnaby).

Confirmed panelists include Ariana Barer from WAVAW and Rosio Godomar from Educate Girls Network. Both are women with extensive experience and opinions on effective strategies to empower women and girls to not only become economically self-sufficient, but to be contributors to their community and challenge society to achieve gender…

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