As part of Yahoo’s global coverage of International Women’s Day 2017, Yahoo Canada profiled women from various backgrounds and professions and asked them “What’s next?” What happens after Women’s Day — what would women like to see happen next in their personal lives, in their respective careers, and as a whole for females across the nation? Check out more of our International Women’s Day coverage here.
“While women in North America might be shocked to learn that women in El Salvador can be jailed for up to 40 years for having a miscarriage, or that women in Iran still can’t attend sporting events without risking arrest, we still have a long way to go in Canada.” — Jess Tomlin, The MATCH Fund.
Jess Tomlin, executive director of the MATCH International Women’s Fund, is gearing up for International Women’s Day in Ottawa — any progress she makes will not only help educate and support the needs of women in Canada, but it will ripple change into the lives vulnerable women across the globe.
The MATCH Fund is a grant-maker for grassroots women’s rights organizations supporting women in more than 25 countries. It’s independently funded by Canadians who help support through donations, making a difference in the lives of women who need it most.
In an eye opening discussion with Yahoo Canada, Tomlin shares valuable knowledge and advice that could help shift the way we, as a nation, think about the needs of women at home and abroad.
YAHOO: Your work to better the rights of women has sent you across the globe. How do the rights of women in North America weigh-up to the rest of the world?
JESS TOMLIN: Canadian women are still earning $0.73 to a man’s dollar. More than 2,000 Indigenous Canadian women have either gone missing or have been murdered in the past 10 years. A North American college campus is one of the most unsafe places for a woman to be—look at the 2015 Dalhousie University scandal or the case of Brock Turner who raped an unconscious girl behind a dumpster at Stanford last year.
Canada has a big reputation to live up to — one of equality, generosity and acceptance. We’re not there yet, but with a feminist Prime Minister and more people mobilized than ever before for change, we can do better for women and girls — both within and beyond our borders.
Y: Can you explain how MATCH choose the groups and communities it funds?
J.T: The MATCH Fund supports the women, girls, and trans people who are innovating within the most restrictive contexts to solve the world’s biggest problems.
In 2013, we launched a global call for proposals that garnered over 1,000 responses totaling millions of dollars. Grassroots women’s organizations are doing the most important work, yet they must do it on a shoestring budget—usually less than $20,000 per year. The MATCH Fund was able to fund such a small number of these proposals in comparison to the great need.
As we have raised more money from Canadians, we have gone back to that original list to support the organizations we couldn’t fund in the first round—organizations such as a traveling human rights tent in Argentina, an underground network of LGBT folks in Uganda, or an after-school tech lab for girls in India. The MATCH Fund has an advisory council of experts who identify the most pressing needs and the most out-of-the-box solutions.
Y: The work you do rewards others. In what ways does it reward you?
J.T: I am deeply energized by the women, girls, and trans people I meet around the world who are the experts and the innovators within their own realities.
Just last November, I traveled to Kenya to visit The MATCH Fund’s two Kenyan partners. I sat in a room full of girls who are doing things like designing apps to help women access healthcare or creating new businesses—such as a feminist carwash—to teach job skills to local women. Solutions like this are especially rewarding because they are led by and for the women and girls they seek to support.
In my line of work, progress can seem so impossible. I always say that women’s rights work is a marathon, not a sprint. But then I meet the people who are creating change from the inside out, and I am reminded that women and girls are making great progress every day. Imagine what they could do with even more resources.
Y: What can men do to support the equal rights of women?
J.T: Some men have been very vocal in the last few years to support women’s rights. Look at all the men who marched in the January 21st women’s marches, not to mention the men in Afghanistan who donned burqas or the men in Portugal who marched in high heals to “walk a mile in her shoes.” These are all touching examples of men who stood up for women’s rights.
But it takes more than just walking a mile in her shoes. Men who get it must also encourage their peers to change the attitudes and behaviors that harm women. Put another way, nothing is ever just “locker room talk.” The men in those spaces must put their foot down.
For example, The MATCH Fund supports a rape crisis centre in South Africa, where nearly 150 rape cases are reported each day. This women-led organization trains young boys to speak out against rape. They go on public television and into middle school classrooms to tell other young boys that rape is not okay. This is the best way to stop rape culture in its tracks and to build a generation of men who will not accept any violence against women.
Y: If you could make one immediately to the treatment of women, what would it be?
J.T: As long as women and girls are not considered equal to men and boys, girls will continue to be denied education, healthcare, and other basic human rights. If women and girls were treated as equals, it would be unheard of that 130 million girls around the world were denied an education or that 1 in 3 women experiences physical or sexual violence in her lifetime.
Tomlin spent a chunk of the past 10 years outside of Canada working for MATCH, Canada’s only global women’s fund, and has collaborated with world organizations including United Nations, the World Bank and USAID to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.
If you’d like to contribute or learn more about The Match Fund, visit http://matchinternational.org/.
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