No More Child Brides

Image of girl in Indian wedding outfit with caption

Image from Indian NGO working to keep girls in school

by Matilda Branson

(Trigger warning: discussion of child sexual abuse)

When I was eight years old, I had three main interests in life:

  1. Building cubby houses in trees.
  2. The trampoline.
  3. Salt and vinegar flavoured chips.

And I wanted to be an archaeologist when I grew up, a stylish incarnation of the Famous Five-meets-Indiana Jones. I had few worries in life.

A few weeks ago an eight-year-old Yemeni girl died from internal bleeding from a ruptured uterus, caused by sex with her 40-year-old husband, not long after marriage.

It is not ok for an eight-year-old girl to be married to anyone.

It is not ok for an eight-year-old girl to die from sex with her 40-year-old husband.

It is fundamentally wrong, wrong, wrong.

You can feel it, no? That slightly sick feeling? It’s not fair, it’s not right – it is wrong. 11-year-old Nada al-Ahdal captures the issues and fears for child brides, as she talks about escaping her arranged marriage, in this video from earlier this year.

Child marriage. Early marriage.Forced marriage. Whatever it’s called, it’s a serious abuse of child rights. It threatens young girls’ lives, their health, and their futures (UNFPA, 2012).  It exposes girls to early pregnancy (the complications which may arise during childbirth when young being the main cause of death among 15-19 year old girls in developing countries), to HIV and STIs. Young girls are more at risk of domestic violence and sexual abuse (marital rape, a hidden form of gender-based violence, is frequently  ignored in the public sphere, left out of policies and legislation), as well as psychological and emotional harm including depression, feelings of hopelessness, and trauma among others.

Girls’ educations (formal and vocational) and their ability to attend school, and to consequently access employment opportunities and to have futures, are irretrievably lost on the day they are married.

Choice for a girl – to have the opportunity to find out what she wants, to choose what she would like to be – is stolen.

Child Marriage hot spots throughout the world:


Country Name

% girls married before 18








Central African Republic















Burkina Faso



South Sudan


















Sierra Leone






Dominican Republic











* Child marriage prevalence is defined as the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before age 18.

Source: UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2013 – data from UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and other national surveys, and refers to the most recent year available during the period 2002-2011. Source: United Nations 

Horrified at the stats?  I was- no, I am, hence the blog post. Not enough is being done. What is scary is that if current trends continue, worldwide, 142 million girls will be married in the next decade alone (UNFPA, 2012). Read more

Posted on by Matilda Branson in Feminism Leave a comment

Things That Make Me So Happy I Could Pee My Pants

by Alicia Costa

The last few weeks at work have been extremely stressful for me. And it’s throwing the rest of my life out of whack because I’m just so grumpy and tired all the time. I’ve been trying all my old tricks to keep myself relaxed (working out, getting a lot of sleep, eating healthy, talking my friends ear off) but nothing seemed to help.

So I’ve been trying to really focus on all the good I do have in my life right now. Inspired by this piece in XO Jane I sat down to write my own list of “things that make me so happy I could pee my pants” or ‘Things that make me do this:


  • Seeing a little girl downtown wearing the most amazing power clash outfit and giving no fucks (she was wearing polka dot pants, a stripped shirt, had a bumble bee back pack, and had a zebra print umbrella). You go kid.
  • Waking up and feeling the warm body of the cat curled up against my back.
  • Emails from my mom, which are, always signed xoxoxoxoxoxoxo Mommy.
  • Emails from my grandma.
  • Driving home from work and the sun was shining and the windows were down and “You Can Do It” by Ice Cube comes on the radio and I felt LIKE SUCH A BOSS.
  • Chubby kids in trendy clothes. Don’t you ever let anyone tell you you are too chubby for skinny jeans.
  • Cherry blossoms.
  • Feeling so devastated that Christopher Abbott is leaving the cast of Girls… but then I found this and forgot what my name is for half an hour…
  • The impeding arrival of my best friends’ twin boys (squeeeeeeee!)
  • Looking at baby clothes and getting exciting about all the obnoxious matching outfits I’m going to dress above-mentioned twins in.
  • The return of Game of Thrones.
  • Making out with a cute guy.
  • Reuniting with an old friend.
  • Pajama pants.
  • Scoring a dress on the clearance rack at Old Navy for .97 and then using a 20% coupon on it (WIN).
  • Wine for dinner.
  • Freshly painted nails.
  • Having a dream that I was in the cast of Girls and we were in a photo shoot for the cover of Vanity Fair (Note: this is my second favourite dream. My favourite was about me being a super famous plus-sized swimsuit model).
  • My morning flirt with the cute barista at Blenz.
  • Feeling tingly after a hot bath.
  • Meeting one of my favourite authors Amber Dawn.
  • Winning a bunch of amazing books.
  • The start of roller derby season.
  • Spending hours making baby-themed crafts.
  • Always having the appropriate Girls quote on hand for any situation.


I encourage everyone to do this. Even if you are so miserable right now the thought of anything making you happy seems impossible. It was a powerful exercise for me because if I’m really honest with myself there is so much in my life right now that is good. And I bet there is some awesome things in your world too.

Posted on by Alicia Costa in My Reality, Pop Culture 2 Comments

Rape is Rape, There are no Grey Areas

knoxvilleby Jasmine Peterson

I do not watch television so I have never seen the show Girls, but I knew something big had happened when my news feed began filling up with statuses and then articles about whether or not events depicted in a recent episode constituted rape.

Although I maintain something of a distance from media, I like to remain informed about the important things, and this seemed to be a pretty big deal, so I started reading what was being written. I mean, how could viewers be confused about whether or not they had witnessed a rape scene or not?

This concerns me greatly. But, at the same time, it doesn’t surprise me. Rape culture is pervasive. It blurs the lines between victim responsibility and rapist culpability. It creates these perceived shades of grey that don’t actually exist. I am known to argue that nothing is black and white, that there are always shades of grey, but the exception is rape. Rape is rape. The only potentially grey areas are in how we define, recognize, and validate rape.

I spent time as a volunteer at a sexual assault crisis centre, and we were trained extensively on issues surrounding rape and consent. As a culture, we are taught to speak of and think about rape a certain way. Media only covers rapes that tend to be prosecutable, and not those that may happen but never make it to a courtroom.

So, culturally, there is this perception of what constitutes rape – we envision someone violently forcing themselves on someone, proceeding when their partner has clearly said no. There are certain kinds of victims we believe (those who say no forcefully and vociferously, those who are chaste, who dressed conservatively, who did everything “right”) and kinds of victims we shame (if a victim was drunk, dressed “inappropriately”, engaging in risky behaviour, sexually experienced, in a relationship with or married to her rapist, then s/he becomes not the “right” kind of victim). This is all part of rape culture. It is perpetuated day-in and day-out through how we talk about sex, consent, women, men, and rape.

It is not surprising, then, when people are confused about rape, or when terms like “grey rape” emerge. But let me just be clear – there is no such thing as grey rape. It does not exist. And this would all be so much more apparent to both men and women if how we talked about sex and consent was clearer. Read more

Posted on by Jasmine Peterson in Feminism, Pop Culture 6 Comments

Canadian Girls Face Interconnected Life Challenges


Participants in a Girls Action Foundation leadership training session, 2012.

by Jarrah Hodge

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day, the Girls Action Foundation has released a new report about the situation facing girls in Canada. Beyond Appearances: Brief on the Main Issues Facing Girls in Canada contains findings from a close review of population surveys and academic literature and shows that girls in Canada face serious and interconnected life challenges, at rates higher than the general public might expect.

I spoke with Saman Ahsan, Executive Director of Girls Action Foundation. She has worked with and on behalf of girls for most of her career.

“There were a couple of statistics that I found really alarming: one was the proportion of girls who try self-harm. In BC we found one in five girls had attempted self-harm in the previous year and that really showed me that the mental health of girls in Canada is something that needs attention,” said Ahsan.

“Another statistic I found alarming is the rate of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. It’s shocking that as a nation Canada can just sit by. I don’t think action is being taken at the level that needs to be done.”

17% of reported missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada were under 18 years old.

Ahsan summarized the situation facing Canada’s nearly 3.6 million girls today:

“Girls are facing a lot of issues that are very intertwined – all the issues they’re facing such as mental health, violence, their career and educational prospects, their physical health – are intertwined and reinforce one another.”

For example Ahsan said many girls experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety as a result of experiencing violence and feeling unsafe at school. Some of the most disturbing stats in the report were around violence: 46% of high school girls in Ontario reported being the target of unwanted sexual comments or gestures. Four times more girls than boys are sexually abused and 75% of the time it is by a family member or friend. The situation is even worse for girls with disabilities. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics Leave a comment

Hannah Horvath, will you be my BFF?

girlsby Alicia Costa

The second season of the HBO hit show Girls is barely off the ground and writer/executive producer/director/actress Lena Dunham is already been raked over the coals for her creative decisions for this season.

Girls, the brainchild of Dunham and comedy-gem maker Judd Apatow, has been widely written about since its debut last year. The premise of the show revolves around four white and seemingly wealthy 20-something women living in New York City.

The first season of Girls was widely criticized for the lack of racial diversity in the casting. Dunham stated it was unintentional and agreed that the casting choices were not reflective of the racially and culturally diverse New York City. So, in the second season African American actor/comedian Donald Glover was cast as Hannah Horvath (Dunham)’s new beau and this was met with mixed reviews. Most critics claimed that by casting Glover in a main role she was using him as the “token” minority in an attempt to make the show appear more diverse.

“… I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, ‘I hear this and I want to respond to it.’ And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can’t speak to accurately.” (

Dunham stated that the decision to cast Glover was made before critics lambasted the casting of the first season and was due more to the fact he’s a brilliant comedian than about him being black. In my opinion critics claiming that Glover’s whole role was written only to add colour to the cast greatly diminish how well written and smart the character of Sandy the hot Republican (Glover) was in the storyline of Girls.

However, Dunham has received the most amount of criticism over her body. She has the audacity to be naked and sexual AND not look how everyone expects actresses to look naked. She is not afraid to act out her own sex scenes and own her body. Read more

Posted on by Alicia Costa in Feminism, Pop Culture 1 Comment

On Beyoncé’s Run The World (Girls)

Beyonce and little girl voting in Florida 2008by Librarian Karen

I don’t usually pay much attention to popular music, but sometimes a song comes along which, when I hear the lyrics or see the video, I think, “What the heck was that?” For example, Beyoncé’s song “Run the World (Girls)”.

There are so many things I don’t like about this song, and video. I realize that most commercial music is created for entertainment (and subsequently monetary) purposes, but claiming that this song is an anthem for girl power or for female empowerment is absurd, leaving me confused and frustrated.

In particular, I am astounded by Arielle Loren’s article “Is Beyoncé The Face of Contemporary Feminism?”, for Clutch magazine. Is Beyoncé the face of contemporary feminism and an inspiration for a fourth wave of feminism? No. Here’s why not and why she shouldn’t be.

Read more

Posted on by Librarian Karen in Pop Culture 2 Comments

Video: Keep Her In the Game

by Jarrah Hodge

The Women’s Sports Foundation released this video in support of Title IX and the foundation’s own “Keep Her in the Game” campaign, in order to show the way social pressures make it difficult for girls to continue participating in organized sports. As the foundation points out:

“From ages 6-9, girls and boys demonstrate an equal level of interest in sports. But by age 14, girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys. Yet we know that girls who stay in sports are proven to have higher self-esteem, better body image, get better grades and avoid things like drugs, smoking and teen pregnancy. Social stigma, lack of access, safety, poor role models and the rising costs of participation are among the reasons girls leave sports.”


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism Leave a comment