Women still striving for worldwide gender equality

The biggest mistake we can make is to presume we have arrived at gender equality.

The biggest mistake we can make is to presume we have arrived at gender equality, says one of this country’s most influential citizens on the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.

“There’s tremendous disparity,” said Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder of War Child Canada on the eve of her presentation in Kelowna.

“Despite the fact women can be a constructive and positive force for change—which has been seen with protestors in Egypt and Tunisia—there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done.”

Through poverty and instability, women continue to be marginalized, she said. In the Congo, for example, it’s not safe for young girls to go to school.

In Afghanistan, 57 per cent of girls are forced into marriage before their 16th birthday, and globally 70 per cent of the world’s impoverished are women.

“Even in Canada women are dramatically under represented when it comes to MPs,” she said.

“There’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done, and to assume it’s behind us is complacency, which is dangerous.”

It’s a pretty dire message to spread on the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Week, where others are cheering on successes and hanging out congratulatory banners, but Nutt has seen more than her fair share of disparity.

For her work with women in some of the most challenging humanitarian environments, Nutt has been named one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40, one of Canada’s Five Leading Activists in Time Magazine, profiled as a Canadian leader by CBC News, a Canadian success story by CTV National News and made Maclean’s Twelve Canadians Making a Difference list.

Recently named among 25 Transformational Canadians, Nutt will receive a global citizen of the year award and share the experiences that opened her eyes to the world’s least flattering angles.

“I’ll be telling three stories (Wednesday) and one of them at least is quite funny,” she said, trying to prove she’s not all doom and gloom.

“And, in general, obviously we’ve seen some tremendous advancements.”

The problem, however, is there are women in war-torn and developing countries that are continually suffering, and turning those conditions around will take global participation.

“Currently, less than five per cent of Canadians’ donations each year go to international causes, which shows there’s a disconnect between the view of ourselves as a passionate globally oriented society and how it manifests itself,” she said.

But, getting involved doesn’t have to be complicated. “Sometimes  it can be overwhelming…but we have so much more access to information than ever before.”

Nutt recommends reading one news story a day, as a first step to being a global citizen.

“Once you expose yourself you’ll get an idea of where the needs are and how to enact change,” she said.

To learn more about Nutt, and the work she’s done with War Child Canada, go to Okanagan College Theatre, 1000 KLO Rd., 7 p.m. Tickets can be bought at the door.

Net proceeds to War Child’s sexual and gender-based violence work in the Democratic Republic of Congo Donations to both War Child and The Kelowna Women’s Resource Centre accepted at the door. For more information, go to warchild.ca.