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
February is Youth Dating Violence Awareness Month! Battered Women’s Support Services YOUth Ending Violence Prevention Program will be taking this month to provide awareness about violence in youth dating relationships. As part of creating greater awareness we will be presenting facts and statistics, we will discuss ways in which we can interrupt sexist and abusive behaviour, the role boys and young men have in ending violence and finally the role of media.
Youth dating violence is a pattern of domination where different tactics/tools are used to maintain power and control of ones partner. It is also important to understand that youth dating violence is also a form of gender violence. We know that girls between the ages of 15-19 experience 10 times more violence in relationships then young men. This is why it is critical to have both girls and boys involved in ending violence in youth relationships. It is Important for boys and young men to take action against sexist and abusive behaviors. The reality is that boys and young men are expected to be tough and in control so violent behavior is often seen as an appropriate way to express themselves within relationships. Fundamental inequalities and sexism in our society lead to abuse against girls and young women because they are often objectified.
Our YOUth Ending Violence program provides youth with the knowledge to recognize what dating violence is as well as how to prevent it, support friends who may be in an abusive relationship and have a discussion around what they want in a healthy relationship. We also look at the roots of violence and discuss the role of media and societal expectations of what it means to be feminine and masculine.