Slaight Family Foundation Gives $15 Million to 15 Women and Girls Initiatives

By Etan Vlessing 3/3/20 |

Gary Slaight — photo credit: Slaight Family Foundation.
The Slaight Family Foundation, based in Toronto, is marking the approach of International Women’s Day (March 8) by donating $15 million to 15 international organizations working to improve human rights and opportunities for at-risk women and girls globally and to protect them from direct harm and abuse.  The #SlaightWomenAndGirls Initiative is expected to support over 1 million women and girls in impoverished, fragile or conflict-affected regions.

The 15 organizations have a specialized focus on supporting women and girls in diverse areas like human rights abuses, child marriages, sex trafficking, legal support, HIV and AIDS and education.

"The aim of this gift is to improve conditions for women and girls living in difficult circumstances, who represent some of the world’s most vulnerable populations," Gary Slaight said in a statement.  “The projects we are funding will leverage the expertise of these vital organizations to protect women and girls in the most fragile countries from direct harm, rebuild the lives of those who have been unjustly affected by conflict, deprivation and disease and give them the tools and support they need to survive and thrive.”

The charities receiving support from the foundation range from AIDS-Free World in sub-Saharan African countries that tackles social inequality issues raised by high rates of HIV in women; Canadian Feed the Children in Ethiopia, which created a Livelihood & Gender Equality Fund to champion human rights among local girls and women; the Canadian Red Cross in south Sudan and the Central Africa Republic as it brings health care to women and girls cut off from hospitals and doctors due to violence;  CARE Canada in Somalia as it encourages menstrual hygiene management for school-age girls with female genital mutilation; and Crossroads International in Senegal

After it launched a youth-led awareness campaign for sexual and reproductive health rights among adolescent girls and boys at risk from child trafficking, forced prostitution and other threats.

"This investment in international NGOs is unprecedented and the projects being supported will directly assist more than one million women and girls in some of the world’s most fragile regions,” Dr. Samantha Nutt, president of War Child Canada said in a statement about the Slaight Family Foundation support.  “It’s such an important time to be highlighting this issue. For The Slaight Family Foundation to recognize the threats faced by women and girls, and acknowledge that their concerns matter with such an historic gift, is a profound message to send. On behalf of the entire group we extend our sincerest gratitude to The Slaight Family Foundation for their incredible support of our collective work.”

Other organizations receiving Slaight Family Foundation support includes Human Rights Watch as it works to curb discrimination of women and girls in the Middle East and North Africa; Partners In Health Canada and its work to boost access to sexual and reproductive health services in Malawi and Sierra Leone; Right To Play and its effort to boost education opportunities for young girls in Mozambique; the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative trying to reduce child soldier recruitment by enlisting the support of women in war zones; and Save the Children in Sierra Leone as it encourages young girls and boys to be aware of sexual, reproductive health and gender equality rights.

 The International Women's Day announcement follows earlier initiatives by the Slaight Family Foundation, which was founded in 2008 by broadcaster John Allan Slaight. Some other recent initiatives from the foundation include a $50 million donation in 2013 to help five different hospitals advance their health care, $7 million in 2015 to seven NGOs to help fund lifesaving efforts in global humanitarianism, $11 million in 2016 to support 11 children and youth organizations, and $12 million in 2017 to support 15 organizations working to improve conditions for Canadian Indigenous populations.

The latest donation from the Slaight Family Foundation for at-risk women and girls will support the Stephen Lewis Foundation in sub-Saharan Africa as it addresses gender inequalities to improve access to HIV prevention services; UNICEF Canada working in Somalia to boost primary school attendance by young girls; War Child in the Middle East and Africa as it offers legal support to women and girls seeking justice after gender-based violence; the WE Charity in Sierra Leone's Kono District as it empower women and girls to end inter-generational cycles of poverty and injustice; and Mali-based World Vision  as it introduces its DREAM (Dedicated to Reducing Early Marriage in Mali) program to address the root cause of child marriage.  

Project information below:

AIDS-Free World
Sub-Saharan African countries with UN peacekeeping missions and high rates of HIV in women
Develop and roll out a smartphone app to tap young women’s unique knowledge of and solutions to living under the threat of sexual violence. Women in remote areas who answer open-ended, recorded questions orally, in private, as easily as leaving a voicemail message, will be transformed from victims with lived experiences to experts helping to end sexual violence against women.

Canadian Feed the Children
Creation of a new ‘Livelihood & Gender Equality Fund’ championing the human rights of girls and women in Ethiopia. We will focus on reducing the forced migration of girls and women by helping them finish their education and improve future prospects including starting new, sustainable businesses through an agribusiness hub to develop female entrepreneurship. The initiative includes a sexual and reproductive health and rights campaign, strengthening community police, legal and healthcare systems, and a new research study on child migration.

Canadian Red Cross
South Sudan/Central Africa Republic
The Canadian Red Cross is launching an innovative program that brings health solutions directly into crisis and conflict areas, reaching women and girls who are cut off from health facilities due to violence. Essential health care and supplies delivered by local Red Cross responders will increase safe pregnancies, improve nutrition, and provide access to clean water and lifesaving treatments for disease.

CARE Canada
Innovate and improve menstrual hygiene management for school-age girls with female genital mutilation –develop and test new solutions with established women and girls’ groups, train women to produce hygiene products locally, improve school sanitation facilities and increase community awareness.

Crossroads International
The program will increase access to gender-responsive heath services and launch a youth-led awareness campaign for sexual and reproductive health rights among adolescent girls and boys at risk of child trafficking, forced prostitution, child labour and sexual violence in Kedougou, Senegal.

Human Rights Watch
Middle East/N Africa
End discrimination of women and girls by documenting the abuses of male guardianship system in the Middle East and North Africa. Year 1 will focus on documenting male guardianship in Qatar; how lack of domestic violence legislation and discriminatory laws leaves women exposed to domestic violence in Kuwait; and the start of mapping how and where male guardianship exists in the region.

Partners In Health Canada
Malawi & Sierra Leone
Improved access to sexual and reproductive health services especially for adolescents, strengthened care for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, and increased availability of high-quality obstetric care. Activities include health worker training, resourcing and delivery of clinical care, educational initiatives for young people, and community-based work to raise awareness about women's and girls' rights and promote health seeking behaviour.

Right To Play
Transform the lives of more than 50,000 girls across Mozambique through a gender-responsive education program that removes barriers to access, builds teacher capacity, and positively impacts national programs and policies. The result will be higher literacy rates, lower drop-out rates, and a generation of girls who are better supported to succeed.

Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative
Helping reduce child soldier recruitment and conflict-based sexual violence through capacity building of national military and police forces, with a focus on female force members; enhance the Dallaire Initiative’s cadre of female international trainers and global champions; raise awareness amongst the global community on the critical role of women in preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

Save the Children
Sierra Leone
Improve knowledge and skills of adolescent girls and boys to be aware of and exercise their rights around sexual and reproductive health and gender equality, to be able to make their own informed decisions related to marriage and pregnancy. This action will transform harmful practices and attitudes that reinforce gender inequalities and gender-based violence and strengthen the institutional and policy environment to prevent child early and forced marriage.

Stephen Lewis Foundation
Sub-Saharan Africa
Expand holistic programmes that address gender inequalities to improve access to HIV prevention services, and support treatment adherence for women and girls living with HIV. Expand the global grandmothers movement through Grandmother Gatherings. Empower grandmothers caring for children orphaned by AIDS to claim their human rights and lead their communities, through peer support, healthcare, skills training, economic empowerment and advocacy.

In Somalia, only 30 per cent of children attend primary school with girls accounting for less than half of the total enrollment. This project will focus on girls and children with disabilities to improve their access to early childhood education (ECE) services. Community based and alternative ECE programs will be established in rural areas and provide appropriate curriculum that caters to the children’s different needs. It will also include education for parents and communities so that they can better support their children’s education.

War Child
Empower women and girls to seek justice and tackle impunity within their communities by providing critical legal support for those affected by or at risk of gender-based violence; through targeted educational programming, ensure that girls can uphold their rights, have greater self-determination, and move out of poverty over the long-term.

WE Charity
Sierra Leone (Kono District)
Focus on advancing the rights of vulnerable women and girls by empowering them with the tools, support and skills to bring an end to inter-generational cycles of poverty and injustice. The three-part program will implement training to address human rights abuses and threats affecting them. Part one will deliver community-wide training to create greater awareness about women’s rights and human rights abuses. Part two will provide vulnerable women and girls education on their rights, referral support and life skills to increase their opportunities. Part three will offer the highest-risk women and girls vocational training and accelerated learning opportunities.

World Vision
Implement the DREAM program - Dedicated to Reducing Early Marriage in Mali - to address the root cause of child marriage; will include sexual and reproductive health services, education and economic livelihood training; upgrading schools with girls washrooms, training parents, teachers, and faith leaders on the consequences of child marriage; train mothers and girls in financial literacy, life skills and income generating activities to increase household income.

(Ed. note: The Slaight Family Foundation is a supporter of Samaritanmag).

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