Monthly Archives: January 2011

International Section

This section of the blog will be devoted to updating CFUW members about the international work of our organization.

CFUW’s international work centres on the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), the United Nations, the Canadian Government’s international participation , and arising global issues.

Upcoming events include the United Nations annual meeting for the Commission on the Status of Women, occurring this March and the latest news on the new UN agency for women, UN Women.

Ardith Toogood, Coordinator for International Relations will be blogging here, stay tuned for more information to come.

“So How Was Mexico?”

By Erica Nickels

Since I arrived home in December, people have been asking me about my experience as a Canadian Youth Delegate to COP16, the sixteenth round of climate change negotiations at the United Nations.  The conversation usually starts off with them asking, “did you have fun in Mexico?”  After all, they reason, I had just spent two weeks in Cancun, the land of white sand beaches, exclusive resorts and all-night dance parties. How could I not have had fun?  The first couple of times this happened, I wasn’t quite sure what to say.  Did I have fun in Mexico…did I meet a lot of interesting people? Definitely.  Did I learn more in two weeks than I ever thought was humanly possible? Without a doubt.  Was I glad that I went? Absolutely.  But did I have fun in Mexico?  No, not really.

Participating in COP16 – the lead up, the conference and the aftermath – has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life.  Before the conference, I struggled  as part of project that, like the youth environmental movement itself, is vastly underfunded and overcommited.  During the conference, I witnessed the colossal slowness of the bureaucratic megatron that is the United Nations.  I sat through self-congratulatory speeches and formulaic pleasantries and painfully technical debates on punctuation, and got up close and personal with Canada’s diplomatic evasive maneuvers. I spoke with country representatives who could only afford to send 2 negotiators to a conference where 15 negotiating tracks occur simultaneously, and developing countries are behind before they’ve even started.  As the conference drew to a close, I felt the like the real reason we had all come together had somehow been lost, and that for another year, hundreds of thousands of people would continue to lose their lives and livelihoods to climate change, while we threw up our hands and said, “oh well, better luck next year”.

Over the past month, I have struggled to find a way to adequately explain my experience at the United Nations that is simultaneously honest and hopeful.  Because, even in my darkest, most difficult of moments, I never lost hope, not entirely.  I have to believe that we can, that we will do better – it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.  But I’m also a great believer in following my passions, and I have recently realized that I am not, in fact, passionate about the United Nations.  There is still important work to be done at the U.N. climate change negotiations, and young people have an important role to play in that process; However, the single most important thing we can do as young Canadians is to work to shift the ideological, economic, and political landscape here in Canada.  Until Canadians recognize the moral imperative to take action on global warming, realize that climate change adaptation and mitigation present unparalleled opportunities for domestic economic growth, and make climate change a central election issue, we  can sign as many international treaties as we want, but our politicians will never champion legislation that seriously addresses climate change.

So where do we go from here?  There are tonnes of organizations here in Canada that are doing excellent education and advocacy work when it comes to public outreach, issues-based campaigns and green jobs, but there’s one thing in particular that we can do that would drastically transform Canadian policies: vote!  We know that if more youth showed up at the polls, our country would look a whole lot different than it does right now.  In fact only 37% of youth voted in our last election, compared to 68% of Canadians over the age of 65.  Imagine what we could accomplish if we got more youth to show up the next time around!  Rumours are flying that we could have an election as soon as this spring; we have the opportunity to make climate change an election issue, and to encourage more young people to exercise their civic right and responsibility to vote.

There are a thousand ways that we can take action on climate change – I for one am going to be heading to the polls, and bringing everyone I know with me.

Development Work in Tanzania

This series of posts features Brenda Robertson, Regional Director for Ontario North. Brenda spent November in Tanzania working with community groups. We will be posting another segment of her experiences each Friday, check back here to see her latest post.

By: Brenda Robertson, Regional Director Ontario North

As I begin this article, the snow is swirling all around on this frosty afternoon.  Very different from my experiences in East Africa in November where the intense sun shines brightly and the hot sand fills your sandals.  The inland areas are exceedingly dry and food shortages have impacted the Masai in the north.  Our third journey to Tanzania was well planned and had a full schedule of activities.  Three of us this time, PatKalapaca from GrandValley, Christine Fortin, North Bay and myself travelled from Dar es Salaam to the central region, Dodoma, then north to Arusha and Longido.  We met with many community groups, the youth, schools and health clinics…..  Each time we are inspired by the resilience of the people, their determination to overcome adversity and build a better life for their children. We give out our supplies, baby hats, knitted teddy bears, school materials…..knowing that we receive far more than what we are giving. Over these seven years, we continue to build relationships, friendships in each of the areas we go.  How wonderful to reunite, make new connections and share our stories. For me this is a special gift.  Video and rolls of film tell more of the story. The Sauti Moja Org. works with the Masai in the north and are doing some amazing work supporting two Montessori schools along with other initiatives which include Community Conversations about HIV/AIDS, the Girl-child, and Widows.

Our Mpunguzi Youth Resource Centre in Dodoma area has become a hub of the community where the new Community Based Council has set up their offices in an adjacent building that used to be the hostel. The community needs a Health Clinic closer to the distant villages.  Travel distance is a huge concern for health care. These buildings are not large, but would provide some basic care that is not available at this time. One of the highlights of the trip was meeting with my sponsored child Asha now aged sixteen, and her family. If you have ever considered child sponsorship, I can tell you firsthand how your sponsorship supports not only the child, but the whole community through assistance to schools, nutrition programs and building wells to name a few areas.

Numerous meetings were also in Dar es Salaam from the Canadian High Commissioner Robert Orr to the Tanzanian Ambassador’s wife Joyce.  Thanks to Dianne Rummery, CFUW Ottawa who introduced me to Joyce last July while at the AGM.  Susan Phillips of IFUW was instrumental in providing me the name of the former CIR for Tanzania, Gertrude Mapunda who was a wealth of information on maternal health care and on other issues of concern affecting women in the country.

Pat and I will continue in the development work we started in 2003 through Retired Teachers.  We are grateful to CFUW North Bay for their generous support of schools in the Mpunguzi area and the materials/donations given by family, friends and neighbors to take with us.

In closing, I would like to leave you with this thought.  ‘When one dreams, it is only a dream. But when many dream the same dream it becomes a reality.’ (Village of Hope quote)

Two dreams for the Mpunguzi community are building a health clinic and hiring a secondary teacher for English at the Youth Centre.  I invite you to consider the change you could make in the daily lives of one child, one family, one village, one community.

In following articles, I would like to expand on each area briefly mentioned in this overview of our ongoing development work in Tanzania since 2003.