Thursday, 24 October 2013

Giving Much Thanks!

It’s been a year since I officially created Saving Angel; and there are no words to describe how I feel at this moment. I will say this much – I am thankful; thankful for the love and support that I have received from followers and supporters all around the world. I think about the 505 followers that I have on twitter and I marvel at how just a year ago I started with nothing.

If it’s one thing I’ve learnt from being a part of the twitter family, it is – having followers means that people actually care about what you have to say; that what you say matters to them and affects them in some way or the other.

I know 505 is not a big number as compared to other organizations that have thousands of followers – but 505 is in fact a big number to me. If we are to truly think about it; five hundred and five followers means that we have changed/influenced or altered five hundred and five lives (in some way shape or form). So in saying such, the members of Saving Angel just want to say thank you to each and every member of our family. Your support means more than just a follow on a twitter account – it’s a vote of confidence, a shoulder to stand beside, and voices being heard.
 
Please continue to show your support and spread the word! Let’s do this together & make it another successful year!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

This is My Story; Our Journey; Our Place

Hey everyone! I wanted to try writing a poem but I'm not very good at writing poems or rhyming. So please don't mind if it's not the best! Nevertheless, I would appreciate any feedback/comments as usual! Much love & respect xoxoxo

This is My Story; Our Journey; Our Place

Whether you believe in evolution or religion;
We were all brought here to find our place.
Each story of victimization is unique in its own way;
But our journeys of survival are one-and-the same.

For as long as we can remember, we have endured hardships;
Though our lips moved, we remained soundless.
For days we suffered at the hands of our abusers;
All the while we were shunned by the voices of our commentators.

Society enforced its traditions and customs;
Forever engrained in our lives they were upon us.
Despite all that we had to experience;
We knew, deep down inside there was a reason.

The reason was to find this place;
A place of hope, of reason of faith.
Each of our journeys led us here;
Where we could connect, communicate and collaborate.

At last we have found our home, our pulse;
Where there are words of support and love.
Together we shall amplify, magnify and empower;
To eliminate the traditions practiced in the name of violence against women.

This is my place;
Where transformations are made.
And this is my place,
Where my friends and I live without fear or shame.

Critics continue to share their words of discouragement;
They continue to threaten the success of advocates.
Nevertheless we are reminded, “that with courage we create possibilities;
And with beauty we innovate”

For years we have walked and suffered alone;
Now, we will march and triumph together.
Collectively we will defy all abusive traditions,
All the while we will respond to the criticisms.

No longer are we just victims and survivors;
For our journeys have turned us into inspirational motivators.
With visions of a brighter future, where women and men are finally equal;
We shall let our voices prevail & empower those who are still victims of horror.

This is my place;
World pulse is our place.
This is my journey;
Our story of survival.

Monday, 8 April 2013

It disgusts me..



It disgusts me..

Yes I’ll admit it. I fight for women’s rights, empowerment and protection. But I also fight for gender equality which includes men’s rights, empowerment and protection; and it disgusts me when I read about men being victimized, and people criticizing and insulting those victims for talking out and seeking assistance in attaining justice for their victimization. Just because they’re men doesn’t make them less worthy or less deserving of attaining justice.

Violence against women occurs so much now that it has become the “norm”; on the other hand, violence against men, happens all around the world and manifests itself in various forms, but it so underreported and shunned upon, that when male victims speak out about their victimized they are further rejected.

Recently, a 19 year old boy was sexually assaulted by 4 women in Toronto. Commentators, criticizers and disrespectful critics spent so much time talking about the weight of the assaulters, their age and the fact that their victim was a 19 year old guy that they completely bypassed what really happened. A 19 year old guy was sexually assaulted – period.  A crime occurred, leaving a man victimized and forever scarred.

Here were some of their unnerving comments:
-          “How’s that assault shouldn’t that be called Heaven RT @CP24: Men sexually assaulted by 4 women after leaving club” - @big_business
-          “@laajonnes: “@CP24: Man sexually assaulted by 4 women after leaving club […] wait, whaaat? :D” his ass was happy as hell” - @_Bugsy
-          “@laajonnes that’s what I’m saying every mans dream…?” - @_DancehallLife
-          “5 foot 4, 200 lbs? I’da screamed rape! My prayers are with this guy. :) - @whoners
-          “Four fat girls sexually assault and rape a guy in Toronto: now every fat girl is pub(l)ic enemy” - @KCxcobra
-          “I aint going to no god damn Toronto Fat bitches rape dudes up there” - @DOUBLERxRAFFY

Ultimately, for a million reasons and more (including the above examples,) I have so much respect for the authors who post some of the most thought provoking and inspirational pieces on the Good Men Project website. Aside from their many goals and purposes, some of their main reasons for having this site (in my belief) are: to redefine what it means to be a male; to redefine the term “masculinity,” and to re-examine how the pre-existing masculine image negatively impacts a growing/adult male’s life experiences (especially when they are victimized – as in this case).

The authors of the Good Men Project, remind us all of so many important factors about male victimization, that we so often (and coincidently) forget, because we’re so blinded by the media’s interpretation of masculinity vs. victimization (vulnerability).

Here are some of those critical reminders:
-          “First and foremost, we’re stuck on the term rape, which is still a very gendered term. Until last year, the federal definition of rape only covered the forcible penetration of a man’s penis in a woman’s vagina [...] We can talk about how sexual violence impacts some worse than others. It’s a lot easier to discuss, debate and become irate about these differences (some of which are important) rather than focusing on how a gendered conversation shuts out the potential to work together to call an end to all types of sexual violence […] Men are victims of sexual violence” – Sarah Beaulieu
-          “Please tell the United Nations that males get HIV/AIDS from being trafficked too” – Cameron Conaway
-          “For a problem to be solved we must first see it for what it is. This applies to anything from fundamental calculus to fiscal cliffs. I can’t pretend to know much about either, but I’ve learned enough in my extensive research into sex trafficking to know this: the sex trafficking of boys is essentially absent from the conversation […] “The public isn’t ready for it,” I’ve been told. Truth is, we only speak about the victimization of boys when it’s forced on us by breaking-news scandals like those of Jerry Sandusky or The Boys Scouts of America. As the news story fades so too does the conversation”

It is so important that we spend critical time redefining these concepts of ‘what it means to be a man’ or what ‘masculinity’ means, so that we can eliminate these horrible criticisms over male victims speaking out and trying to get help. Just because they are men doesn’t make them less deserving of justice. They experience horrific incidents of victimization just as much as women do; and they should have equal right in fighting for their justice, their rights and their protection.

Yes, I fight for women’s rights, empowerment and protection – but, I also fight for men’s rights, empowerment and protection; and I have to thank the Good Men Project for a lot of that.

If you’re reading this – please visit any one of their links for more info on them:
goodmenproject.com/

It disgusts me, and I hope it disgusts you too; so please join The Good Men Project & Saving Angel + so many more as well all fight for gender equality, empowerment & protection.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

My Mentor: My Mom

Dear Mom,

Normally I make you a card every year on Mother’s Day with my horrible artistic skills, but this year I want to do something different. I’ve been given the opportunity to let the world know how much your strength and determination for a better life and your unending love and support has impacted me and helped turn me into the woman I am today. I commend you each day of my life for the many compromises, sacrifices and difficult decisions you had to make during your time here in Canada.

It has been 34 years since you came to this ‘foreign land,’ married dad and attempted to begin your new life in hopes of gaining a better future. On many occasions, you remind me of what you left behind in Guyana and what you had to go through; the fact that you used to sell in the market during the hot hours of the morning to make a few dollars and the fact that you had the opportunity to go to school for a short period of time. I could never begin to imagine how hard it was for you to make those very difficult decisions – but you made them, and you stayed strong and determined to turn this into a better life. After you got married you had kids and instead of going to work, you became a stay-at-home mom.

I’ve heard stories about how you were bullied while you used to walk Dee home from school, because we were the only “brown” family in our area. I’ve heard how the children and their parents would throw snow balls at you and tell you to “go back home”, yet not even then did you give up. When I was younger, I took everything for granted and I didn’t realise how much you had to sacrifice to buy me what I wanted. But as I got older, I started realising how much you did have to give up. You gave up your education, you gave up a ‘way of life,’ and more importantly, you gave up gratifying yourself to put a smile on our face. Mom, you never shopped for yourself. You’ve always made do with what you had, and you always remained content. Now I’m 22 and I’m exposed to so many atrocities that are happening against women worldwide, and it makes me think about how blessed I am to have you with me. Children grow up without mothers because their mothers have become victims of violence. They become orphans because their surviving parent chooses to have nothing to do with them, or they get forced into a life of violence and unending pain – they ultimately lack in feeling a mother’s true love.

Mom, you’ve always showered unending love onto me; you’ve always given me so much support and strength when I had to go through my share of struggles; and you always reminded me of how important it is to remain determined when we want to accomplish something. I can never forget the look on your face when I told you I want to start my own non-profit organization to help women who are victims of violence and children who are victims of bullying. I can never forget the look on your face when I told you I wanted to go to India with Aunty, to build homes for underprivileged children and families who have been victimized by violence and forced prostitution. I can never forget the look on your face when I graduated from University. They all had one thing in common – the look of love that was pouring out of your heart. I’m sure you were afraid, but you knew that if I was determined to do those things, there was no stopping me – more importantly, you stuck by my side in my decisions and gave me the support I needed as a woman to make those decisions.

There are no words to describe the ways in which you have helped me – all I can say is, I am the woman I am because of your love and support (ofcourse thanks to you as well Daddy!). My way of repaying you, will be to help as many women and children that I can possibly help in the world. I want to give every child the sense of love and support that you have given to me all these years. I want to give every woman the opportunity to make a better life for themselves the way that you gave me and Dee by coming to Canada. More importantly, I want to share with everyone all that you’ve shared with me – the gift to find their place in the world, because without you mom, I wouldn’t be here.

I love you always mom.

Web 2.0 is Mightier than the Sword!

The most rewarding thing about using Web 2.0, is the fact that it gives women worldwide the platform to connect, communicate and collaborate on the global discussion of women’s empowerment. By using these platforms we are further enabled to raise awareness, address cultural problems and find solutions to prevalent issues that negatively impact the growth of female empowerment.

The ability to connect with other women worldwide, become friends, communicate over mutual interests and collaborate in order to find resolutions to these issues, is such a huge asset to the global women’s empowerment movement. For example, recently I have become friends with Achieng Beatrice Nas, who is an advocate for women’s rights and empowerment in Uganda. Beatrice is not only using her skills and knowledge but she is utilizing Web 2.0 in its many facets as a means of promoting her Mentorship program – Rural Girl Child Mentorship Uganda. She is also a supporter of many other Organizations in Uganda such as Build Africa Uganda. For me Beatrice is one of the many women who represent the positive results of using Web 2.0.

There will be women coming from various educational backgrounds, who have been through a variety of experiences, and who have lived in a multitude of geographical/political and economical developments. As a result, the diversity of life experiences will provide a greater platform for global discussion on the overall issue; as we can tackle the issue from all of those stand points (geographical, political, economical, social, cultural, etc.).

It’s important that we remind ourselves, that as much as we are each victims, we are together survivors; and by using all of the available platforms more frequently, we can empower each other and promote the growth of the global women’s empowerment movement. For me, I see the gift of empowerment that these platforms provide me with on a daily basis. Every day I update my growing network of followers on various social media sites with events, articles, opinionated pieces etc. that are all relevant to the bigger issue of violence against women. I also share my opinion, ask questions and probe for greater conversation with my followers, as it is important to promote the use of these platforms for greater social empowerment. Saving Angel (my non-profit organization) is what it is because of various platforms that Web 2.0 has provided me with. These very platforms have shown me how the pen is truly mightier than the sword; and if we continue to remain persistent in connecting, communicating and collaborating as women and advocates for our protection and rights, then we can definitely promote our protection and rights, as well as the global women’s empowerment movement.

When an opportunity presents itself..

While on worldpulse today, I was lucky to come across the 'Launching Voices of Our Future Training Program 2013' and I decided to submit my application and take this wonderful opportunity up with so much hope. Opportunities like this (sadly) come once in a while despite living in what the world considers a developed nation/first-world country.

As mentioned by @hocinedim: "Just because you're not affected by an issue, this doesn't mean that issue isn't important. That's privilege 101"

There are two important aspects of that quote that I'd like to discuss in terms of this amazing opportunity.

One: Issues of Importance

Majority of people within Canada are not affected by these issues that we as activists (men & women) are trying to raise awareness about. Just like indivduals around the world, they are just trying to get through every day and with economic downfalls/lack of jobs/no stability, its difficult for any individual to take time out of their schedule to consider sharing an article about these issues or even commenting on an article. Not to say that those are excuses - and they're not; but this is just the mindset that many of us live with. For them ultimately, these issues don't affect them, and as a result, mean that the issue isn't important. Through this wonderful program, we can learn the skills and the qualifications to help raise more awareness about these important issues through literature and media (art in all of its facets). I think these amazing opportunities when presented should be something that we all take full advantage of. Learning how to voice our opinions, share our thoughts and connect worldwide is such an essential tool in today's world, especially when considering the government's lack of commitment to addressing these issues, and our ability to use techonology at increasingly vast rates.

Two: Privilege

When I was filling out the Applicant Questionnaire, and I read this question, saw the options and responded - I immediately thought of how privileged I am in comparison to so many others - not only worldwide but even within my own country. The question was:

How often do you access the internet? *
- Every day
- 4-6 times per week
- 1-3 times per week
- Less than 1 time per week
- Other:

My response: Every day. I have an amazing cell phone (aka smartphone) that allows me to post my updates to our Twitter/Facebook page (allowing me to access the internet on the go) & I have interent access at home. How is it that I consider myself so privileged and yet I complain when the internet goes down, or when I didn't have the smartphone? Being privileged is something that so many of us take for granted. We forget how easy it is for us to use various forms of techology, log onto the internet, use Facebook/Twitter - and it's only when we see these types of inspirational opportunities, are we reminded of how privileged we are. This gift of asking questions and learning through this program is such a privilege, that I'm sure so many men and women worldwide would do anything to have. It hurts me to think about all the applicants who had to choose one of the other options, because they aren't as privileged as I am. This aspect of our daily lives that we call technology has created such a huge gap between children and adults of low economic standards/development and the rest of us, who like me have access to the internet at our finger tips.

If you're reading this post, please join and get involved in this amazing opportunity, so that we can collectively raise awareness and share our opinions about issues that matter the most. Here are some of the benefits to joining this program as mentioned by the coordinators:

Benefits of the program include:
- Citizen journalism and digital empowerment training via phone and Internet by renowned experts, including program partners The Global Press Institute and The Op-Ed Project
- Personal coaching sessions and support via phone and Internet from a Vision Mentor
- Opportunities for publication through World Pulse and partner media organizations
- Opportunities to connect with grassroots women leaders from around the globe
- Personal development, including increased self-awareness, confidence, and empowered leadership
- Professional development, including improved skills in citizen journalism, digital empowerment and networking
- Nurturing and collaborative relationships with women, and our allies, across the globe
- Increased visibility for issues and challenges faced by you and your community
- Technology stipend to offset communication costs*
Remember, if you choose to bypass this opportunity, you are choosing to take for granted this amazing privilege that so many are attempting to have. Let our voices be heard & let our opinions be vioced!
#2013EndSlavery #2013EndBullying #2013EndVAW #2013EndRape

Sometimes its Hard to Imagine..

Sometimes its hard to imagine getting through the days ahead of us, much less getting through the present day. And because of such, many people turn to alternative solutions or methods of coping.
For us, during some of the hardest times in our lives, these very inspirational and thought-provoking quotes have given us a sense of reason when nothing else did. To all the victims and survivors, we hope these quotes can do for you what they did for us, and give you all that sense of hope and reason for a brighter and stronger future.

My thoughts, some quotes & Impunity Worldwide

This Saving Angel is highlighting some of the most inspirational quotes that we have read in various articles.

The quotes pose as reminders for us and our roles in the oppressive cultures that we (un)knowningly
support. Cultures like that of Rape, Violence against Women, Impunity, ‘Victim-blaming’ etc.

Quotes:
- "Wombs punctured with guns. Women raped and tortured in front of their husbands and children. Rifles forced into vaginas. Pregnant women beaten to induce miscarriages. Foetuses ripped from wombs. Women kidnapped, blindfolded and beaten on their way to work or school. We saw the scars, the pain and the humiliation. We heard accounts of gang rapes, rape camps and mutilation. Of murder and sexual slavery. We saw the scars of brutality so extreme that survival seemed for some a worse fate than death"
- Rehn & Sirleaf, (2002). Women, War and Peace: The Independent Experts’ Assessment on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Women’s Role in Peace Building. New York: United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM): 9. Accessed from the World Wide Web:
http://147.96.1.15/info/ucmp/cont/descargas/documento7201.pdf
- “Gender and empathy: Men shouldn’t need to “imagine if it were your wife/daughter/mother”” - Maya
- “Women are tag-marked as shameless transgressors for marrying without the consent of family, seeking divorce, asking for a share in ancestral property or refusing to cover hair, face, or body. Violence against women surges whenever the patriarchal status quo or the traditional mode is challenged” - Ragini Nayak
- “A few months later I realized the nightmare wasn’t over. I had become pregnant from the rape. I went into shock again […] I felt enormous shame and guilt […] The rape and then the trauma of the subsequent choices I made as a result of being raped haunted me for years. I found with the rape that my body healed, but my thought process and inner core were deeply damaged […] I was the one who carried the emotional and psychological burden of being victimized with me. Not the predators who did this to me - I carried it” - Renee Devesty
- “Either we could be complicit in a culture that permitted the mistreatment and harassment of women, or we could hold ourselves, our friends and our family members accountable for the misogyny. We had a responsibility to unlearn” - Joel Anderson
- “Women hold up half the sky” - Chinese Proverb

Impunity Worldwide
For as long as patriarchy has been around, so too has the issue of Impunity worldwide. Millions of women suffer at the hands of their nation’s oppressive regimes because of the use of Impunity. Impunity has set free millions of rapists, murderers and ‘would-be’ convicts, while the victim suffers from the stigma and the loss of life - literally.
India

In India, women more often than ever resort to committing suicide when faced with having to make that decision of impunity. They cannot withstand the stigma that results from being a rape victim, nor can they ever imagine being forced to marry their rapist. This is exactly what happened to a teen who recently committed suicide after being gang raped and pressured to marry one of her rapists. The victim’s sibling told Newscasts that the local police officers were pressuring her sister to either accept money or marry one of the rapists.

Moreover, recently there has been an increase of ‘bus gang-rapes’. Days after the death of Jyoti Singh Pandey, another girl was gang-raped on a bus by 7 men. In saying such, there has been an increase of ‘victim-blaming’ which is also an element of Impunity. Forcing the victim to take the blame for the rapists actions, placing the element of shame on the victim and forcing the victim to make a choice of either protecting their rights or loosing everything they have (whatever little they may have). So many victims because they fear for their lives and the safety of their family turn to committing suicide - this is their life of impunity.
Guatemala

For Guatemalan women, suffering the consequences of not assenting to the terms of impunity has resulted in their family home being burnt to ashes, the death of their siblings, jail time or even death. The documentary ‘A Killer’s Paradise’ (2007) documents in detail the reality that so many women live with on a daily basis. A reality much see in the recent death of 2 innocent girls whose bodies were thrown into the Guatemalan streets. On January 16th, 2013, two girls aged 6 and 11 were strangled while holding their rosary beads; on the same day in another part of Guatemala, 2 other women were shot and murdered.
In the documentary, the producers follow the life of a recent rape victim who’s father filed charges against her rapist. After her filed charges, the Guatemalan police confronted her with a decision - either she marries her rapist (impunity) or she her home gets burnt down. She refused to marry her rapist and no sooner than that, her house was burnt down and her family lost everything. Since then she has been living in a shack - 4 cement walls with a galvanize roof. This is their life - a life of impunity

Oppression - Underlying Issue

Her name is Jyoti Singh Pandey and she was raped on December 16th, 2012 and passed away on December 29th, 2012.

There are no words to explain the emotions I was going through when I first heard of the rape. To be honest, part of me was like ‘Oh, here goes another victim of sexual abuse that the Indian government is going to stand by, and choose to do nothing about’. The other part of me was going through an emotional roller-coaster; something I experience every time I hear of a female being victimized horrifically in India. My heart breaks, a little part of me dies, and the enormous amount of respect that I once had for this nation diminishes a little bit more.

Protests and riots broke out all throughout India in the days to come in response to several things; her victimization, the government’s continuous lack of response to female victimization, the lack of protection and safety for the nation’s women, the government’s lack of acknowledgement, and more so years of continuous condemnation of the victims and protection of the offenders.

In truth, there are so many underlying issues that need to be addressed. Issues that for years the people of India have been raising awareness about, but for just as long the government has turned a blind eye towards.

Some of the underlying issues are (in no particular order):
- Patriarchy
- Human trafficking
- Domestic violence
- Red district
- Female genocide/foeticide
- Female genital mutilation
- Culture of rape & impunity
- Culture of respecting boys over girls
- Victim-blaming
- “Family role model” vs. “shame, anger, humiliation”
- Definitions & legalities/caste system
- Modern slavery

Every picture in this week’s edition paints a very disturbing reality that so many women live with on a daily basis in India. The patriarchal structures and institutions that still flourish within India support these violent acts that continue to happen against women. Moreover, because majority of the victims are of “low caste,” many at times they go unaccounted for, and as a result they never receive justice.

The culture of rape and impunity that has been a founding partner of all nations, allows the violent offenders to walk away from facing their victims, as well as having to face the punishment for their crimes. Furthermore, the culture of “needing” sons over having a daughter, is vividly expressed in families across the Asian continent, which has indefinitely affected the lives of girls even before they are born. For this reason and more, many girls are aborted, there are excruciatingly high female foeticide rates and if the girls are born, they are subjected to violent victimization from birth (female genital mutilation, forced prostitution, modern slavery etc.). Victim-blaming is one of the oldest methods of oppression; the onus is essentially removed from the offender and is placed on the victim. Ultimately, all of the shame and humiliation that comes with being a victim turns into a stigma that destroys the lives of the survivors.

Lauren Wolfe has said that the year 2013 is the year to end violence in all of its facets - violence against women, oppression, modern slavery etc. - and to be honest, I think she’s right. It’s obvious that we cannot entirely eliminate violence from the world in one year, but as a team we can collectively start a movement to destroy the patriarchal mindsets, cultures of rape and impunity, violence and oppression in all forms. It is important as members of our communities, that we raise awareness, share our stories and provide our children with the knowledge on how to tackle these forms of oppression. Some of our kids may be too young to understand the terminology that is used when discussing these forms of oppression. Nevertheless, we can still address these issues with them by showing them images, telling them stories in a simplified manner and explaining to them how at a young age, they can make a difference in the world by sharing their ideas through art etc.

The most important underlying issue that each of the above aspects fall under, is the issue of oppression. Oppression exists in so many ways - verbally, physically, emotionally, etc. - and it is oppression in all of its forms has been embedded within the roots of the social institutions and structures of our societies. We are oppressed in more ways than we recognize or even acknowledge; and because it is so habitual or 'natural' we many at times fail to think twice about it. For example, I was speaking to my Principal from High School who I met with after 5 years - I was telling her about Saving Angel and how important I feel it is to address these issues of oppression in all forms with our students and young adults while they are in high school. I mentioned that while I was in high school I felt sheltered, and I only realised that feeling until I was in University. The government deems what is acceptable to be taught in our school curriculum; they provide the administrators with the material and they provide us with education on everything but oppression. I expressed my deep regret for not knowing earlier about the devastating issue of violence against women in my own home country. Its true - if we do not look beyond what we are being taught in school, we are not going to learn/recognize/acknowledge any of these real issues that officials are not talking about. I only realised how sheltered I was in high school, when I was learning about the devastating reality so many women live with on a daily basis, while I was in University.

Ultimately, it is up to us to teach the future generation, to raise awareness about these issues, and to speak out about oppression in all of its forms, in order to end it. We can save so many lives by changing the outlook on forms of oppression like victim-blaming, the stigma associated with victims of (sexual) violence, masculinity, cultures of rape, patriarchy and impunity. Sadly it has taken India this long to admit they have problem – who knows how many other nations are in denial and how many millions of victims are still suffering at the hands of their oppressive regimes. Together let’s not let Jyoti’s legacy die in vain – let her sacrifice be the turning point for nations worldwide. Together let’s raise the awareness and destroy the mindsets that are in turn destroying us. Let us save more Angels.

Who is Angel?

I remember a couple years back meeting the most amazing little girl – her smile so radiant, her eyes filled with so much promise for a future of happiness.
When I first saw her I was instantly taken over by the sweet sounds of her voice and her chubby cheeks. She was 2 years old at the time, but she experienced so much more than what a normal 2 year old should. Her name was Angel; she originally came from China; her parents abused her, sold her and used her as compensation for drugs and as a pass to move across borders. When they were caught for the first time in America Angel was taken into foster care while her parents stood trial. After their trial they were able to gain custody of Angel – but her story doesn’t end there. Angel’s parents sold her again to get across the Canadian border and once they were caught again, Angel was taken into foster care one more time – landing in the home of one of my relatives where I met her for the first time.

We all knew that it was a matter of time before the verdict was released, and as we waited in anticipation, we became attached to this amazing little girl. In between the first meeting and the news of the final verdict I saw her a number of times – her story changed my life and her smile left a print in my heart. One day when I went over to my aunt’s house hoping to play with her, I found out that her parents won custody of her again and during the day, her parents took her from my aunt’s home. I was heartbroken because I had become so attached to Angel – but more than that, I was disturbed at the fact that the legal system failed this little innocent girl once again. Not only did the American system fail her but the Canadian system failed her, and I think that’s when I realised that one day to come I would want to do something about this issue. Years later and as I look around the world, the images paint a very horrific picture. God only knows what happened to Angel once her parents took her away – I’ve always wondered. I wonder if she was sold again, if she was abused even more, what her life had become, more so I wonder if she lived to see another day, and because of that my heart breaks everyday to think that there was nothing I could do to save her.

See, the problem is that there are so many underlying issues that come with Angel’s situation - and for many of us who have not been touched by a child like Angel or who are unaware of the extent of these issues, we tend to think that this isn’t such a big problem. But it really is – millions of girls and women are being abused, murdered, tortured, raped, trafficked etc. and the disgusting thing is that millions of individuals who have the power to do something about this issue turn a blind eye and have complete disregard for these girls and women. Violence against women and girls has not just been a recent problem – it’s been a problem since the creation of patriarchy. Millions of women and girls like Angel suffer at the hands of individuals who promote and sustain the patriarchal culture – and to be honest it’s not only men who are committing these violent acts, its women as well. The question is what can we do about this? How can we help? The answer – unifying our voices to put an end to this disgusting horror so many women and girls live. The answer – to join hand in hand with many other established charities, foundations, organizations to end violence against women and girls – to educate, protect, provide and promote gender equality and safety.

Growing up as a girl I was unaware of the extent of this issue – in fact, I believed that Canada was a country that stood for gender equality, and that women were respected and protected just as much as men were. Little did I realise how na├»ve I was. There exists a very devastating history of violence against women within Canada, and even till this day it is excruciatingly visible how worse the issue of gender-based violence has gotten. Until recently, I had no clue that thousands of Aboriginal women have been missing for years, and despite the efforts of many focus groups/foundations and lobby groups (such as Sisters in Spirit,) these women still remain missing and possibly dead. Lobby groups on numerous occasions have demanded that the government and the UN get involved and help save these women, but responses can only be seen as promising.

To be honest, we live in an era where technology has allowed for us to unite as advocates worldwide for the protection of children and women. As a result, we have within our hands the power to raise awareness about these issues and work towards eliminating them. I know that we cannot erase history, and it’s often very difficult to change the views of individuals who have been supporters of historical values like patriarchy. But the first step to creating a worldwide solution to these issues starts by raising awareness and uniting communities within states/countries on a daily basis. By getting children of all ages involved within their schools – teaching them about these issues, raising awareness, having fundraisers to help provide support for victims/survivors etc. Also, by uniting adults of all ages, and of all religions/cultures to unite, in order to help raise awareness and stop this “patriarchal” belief from spreading through future generations. Unless we as the future do not show to our respective government officials that these issues need to be addressed because they are important, they will not make the effort to make a change. Creating Saving Angel was the first part of accomplishing my goal – working with schools to raise awareness about these issues is actively, the second part of accomplishing my goal. By raising awareness and teaching the future generation about issues such as female genital mutilation, human trafficking, domestic violence, the red districts etc. we can provide them with the knowledge, tools and power to help destroy these devastating acts of violence against children and women. In the end, the more united we stand, the more power we can accumulate, and the more Angels we can save.