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COVID-19 has added to the educational barriers girls and women face around the world

An article by Alexandra Chaves of the CBC. Alexandra Chaves is a 19-year-old Plan Canada Youth Advocate who is passionate about gender equality and girls' rights.  

It's been nearly one year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. Shortly afterward, schools in Canada and the world began to close, making access to education a global issue.

Here at home, students began navigating the new challenges of online education, lost school days, and the effects of the pandemic on their mental health. But the extent of uncertainty for students in many communities around the world, and particularly for girls and young women, has been much greater.

More than 11 million of them may never return to their education after the pandemic, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). That's the equivalent of 30,000 girls a day who may drop out or not have access to school in 2021 due to COVID-19, one girl every three seconds.

Why is this the case? The problem stems from a continuous cycle of gender inequality and poverty in developing countries.

Unequal and harmful gender norms often put the onus on a girl to care for her household and siblings, creating a situation where her family may see more value in keeping her home than sending her to school.

Girls sometimes face the risk of child- and forced-marriage, which can result in them dropping out of school. Stigma and a lack of access to clean water or sanitation in some places also make it difficult for young women to attend school while menstruating.

In contrast to the accessibility of education in Canada, the trek to school for girls in some countries also puts them at an increased risk of violence or harassment – a risk many parents will not allow their daughters to take.

A schoolgirl makes her way through the Kibera slums of Nairobi on Oct. 1, 2020, after the government partially reopened schools. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

Even in those developing countries where education is free, the cost of uniforms and school supplies is beyond the reach of many girls and women.

This means that even in circumstances where parents want their daughters to attend school, the financial barriers may be too great.

COVID-19 has added an additional layer to all of the barriers girls and women face, through school closures, lockdowns and unequal access to alternatives such as online learning.

No one's future should be decided for them, but for many around the world, the pandemic is doing just that. It's robbing girls of their education and threatening the future of up-and-coming leaders and change-makers in the process.

Saba Qureshi, a teacher at a government school, is seen in an an empty classroom in Dharavi, Asia's largest slum in Mumbai, India, on Feb. 22. Schools have been locked down due to COVID-19. (Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press)

Education is important to me, and I have never taken it for granted. I was fortunate enough to grow up with access to quality education at a public school near my house. I also had the flexibility and support to pursue an online education, which has allowed me to develop an acting career while exploring university aspirations.

Unfortunately, many young women are not afforded such opportunities. Access to education is a fundamental right under Article 26 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but for millions of girls around the world, it is a right that is not upheld.

We must act now to stop this setback.

Students attend an outdoor class taught by a 12-year-old girl on Feb. 7, 2021, as schools remained closed due to COVID-19 in Atmida, Egypt. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters)

Schools enable girls to grow knowledge, provide them with opportunities, and act as a safe space to build confidence and personal agency. Getting and keeping girls in the classroom is crucial to improving our global society.

I have learned that the world changes when young people demand it. We can harness the power and privilege we have to create meaningful change.

We have the power to ensure that the world recognizes girls and women in crisis, and the challenges they face. Now is not the time to stay quiet.

On International Women's Day, as we celebrate the achievements of women and progress toward gender equality, we have a chance to reflect on how to create a new normal where girls and women worldwide can fully realize their rights, including access to quality education.

Children from remote areas are more likely to be digitally excluded during school closures than those in urban areas due to lack of internet access, preventing them from taking lessons online. Plan International recently delivered walkie-talkies to the island of Lembata, Indonesia, to help teachers maintain contact with their students while schools are closed by the pandemic. (Plan Canada)

Working with Plan International Canada toward gender equality has made me optimistic for the future. I have had the privilege to listen to and speak with inspiring and passionate youth who are creating change in their own communities and abroad. I encourage those looking for ways to be involved in creating change to visit and follow informative social media sources like @UNWomen and @feminist, and to share their messages and spread awareness. Join the conversation and listen to discussions about the gender equality movement.

Ask questions. Sign petitions. If you have the means, donate to organizations that are working to stop the setback to women's and girls' rights caused by lack of access to education.

And encourage others to do the same.

The signs are all around us. We can only make the changes the world needs right now when we work together to ensure that women and girls everywhere can access the education that is their right, and realize their inner power to be the leaders they are — now and in the future.

Full Article:


COVID-19 has added to the educational barriers girls and women face around the world


 BY Alexandra Chaves


Chaves, Alexandra. “OPINION | Pandemic Robbing Many Young Women Worldwide of Their Education | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 8 Mar. 2021, www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/opinion-women-equality-education-1.5935791.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Women's issues have always been something I have been very passionate about. During women's month, it is incredibly important that we not only look at the outright sexism and misogyny that is very present in our world, but the underlying systematic issues as well, like how the expectations of women start so early in a girl's life that it can fully effect her education in ways that would not effect that of their male counterparts.

Mindfulness Activities You Can Do During a Busy Week

An excerpt from Mindfulness Activities: Fun Ways to Be Mindful (No Matter How Much Time You Have!) by Rachael Kable

These mindfulness activities are short and easy to implement. Why? It’s simple - I know you probably don’t want long and complicated things to do during a busy week!

These mindfulness activities are also designed to help you effectively slow down, become present and switch off from stressful thoughts. So, if you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed by your to-do list, these mindfulness activities can be really useful. Let’s dive in!

Start Each Day with a Mindful

Breathing Technique

If you have an alarm clock, set it up so the alarm wakes you 5 or 10 minutes before you need to actually get out of bed. When the first alarm goes off, you can either hit snooze or set a new alarm so you’ll still get out of bed on time.

For those extra 5 or 10 minutes, sit up in bed in a comfortable position and use that time to do a mindful breathing technique.

This can be a great strategy for a few different reasons.


  • One - you still get out of bed on time and you don’t have to sacrifice anything else from your morning routine.
  • Two - practicing mindfulness first thing in the morning is a great way to start the day. Hopefully, you’ll feel calm, refreshed, and clear-minded.
  • Three - it gives you time to wake up gently, rather than jumping out of bed and already feeling rushed.

You might be wondering, what is a mindful breathing technique?


A mindful breathing technique involves paying attention to your breath without changing it. Even though this might sound easy, focusing your attention on a simple thing like your breath can actually take some discipline and practice. Your mind will probably wander off. Many times.


Mindful breathing is simple in theory, but it can be a challenge to implement, especially at first. However, the more you practice and get used to bringing your mind back when it wanders, the more you’ll be able to experience the calmness and connection to the present moment that mindful breathing techniques can offer.


Choose One Daily Task to Do Mindfully

There are probably many different tasks you do every single day on autopilot. Those tasks are wonderful opportunities to invite more mindfulness into your life!


Here are some ideas:

  • Drink your morning cup of tea or coffee mindfully by putting your phone down and paying attention to the flavour, aroma, temperature and textures of your cup
  • Shower mindfully by observing the sensation of the water falling onto your skin.
  • Walk mindfully by listening to all the different sounds you can hear in your environment, or feeling the ground underneath your feet as you walk, or looking out for objects you’ve never noticed before.

The point of this daily mindful activity is to create a habit of doing something simple each day in a more mindful way - letting go of distractions, being present, and focusing on your senses so you can actually experience the activity.

Give Yourself Space to Feel your Emotions (Without Judgement)

This can be a great mindfulness activity to do towards the end of the day to help you check-in with yourself and your needs.

Simply ask yourself “How am I feeling right now?” and if you can, give yourself a few minutes to really observe your emotions and create space to experience them.

For example, you could sit down somewhere quiet and turn your attention inwards.

Notice how you’re feeling physically.

Reflect on the events that unfolded during the day.

Observe your emotions and the reasons behind them.

Then, let go of the reasons and focus on the emotion itself. “I feel irritated because the house is messy and my boss expects too much from me” simply becomes “I feel irritated”.

Notice how it feels to be irritated without berating yourself for feeling that way.

Allow yourself to fully feel that emotion and you might even notice the intensity of it start to fade.

Try the "Don't Know Mind" Technique

I learned about the Don’t Know Mind from Jack Kornfield over a year ago and I still use it often.

It involves recognizing and becoming comfortable with uncertainty and the more I practice, the more I feel like I’ve been able to let go worrying about things I can’t control.

The “Don’t Know Mind” technique works like this:

  • When you notice yourself predicting the future, or obsessing over certain outcomes, or worrying about what’s going to happen, give yourself some time to do this practice.
  • Observe what your mind is doing for a few moments, then in your mind, start to say the words “I don’t know what will happen and that’s okay”.
  • You might like to repeat these words a few times and let yourself explore what it’s like to embrace uncertainty; to let go of the need to achieve a certain outcome and to trust in yourself that no matter what happens, it will be ok.

For example, a lovely friend of mine showed me a cool online platform recently called Medium. It’s a huge collection of great quality articles on a range of topics, including psychology, productivity, mindfulness, work, money, and relationships. I was so impressed that I thought “Wow, it would be really great if I could write my own articles and publish them there.”

I did quite a bit of a research and worked on an article and a few days later, I posted my first article about setting goal categories (rather than “random” goals), which was both exciting and really nerve-wracking.

Then, I started thinking “What if no one likes my article?”, “What if my article goes viral and I actually make some money – how amazing would that be?!”, and “What if nothing happens and it ends up taking too much of my time?”.

I was starting to feel stressed and kept checking my statistics… Until, I realized it was the perfect opportunity to practice the “Don’t Know Mind” technique.

I’ve practiced it a few times now to become more comfortable with the uncertainty of writing on Medium, and now I feel much more accepting that I can’t control what might happen. I’ll do my best and learn new things, but I’m not quite so attached to any particular outcome. It feels more like an experiment – and that’s way more fun!

Full Article:


Fun Ways to Be Mindful (No Matter How Much Time You Have!)


 BY Rachael Kable


Kable, Rachael. “Mindfulness Activities: Fun Ways to Be Mindful (No Matter How Much Time You Have!).” Rachael Kable, Rachael Kable, 6 Mar. 2021, www.rachaelkable.com/blog/how-to-be-mindful-with-fun-mindfulness-activities.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Sometimes the weekdays get so busy you feel like you're drowning in them. It's very helpful to have a few techniques that take little time, but can help regulate your entire day. 

8 Life-Changing Benefits for Brain and Behavior

An excerpt from Mindfulness with Kids: 8 Life-Changing Benefits for Brain and Behavior by Angela Pruess

Anxiety or not, mindfulness will improve the behavior and emotional well-being of all kids.

The research is so powerful and indicative that large institutions and businesses are starting to take action. Top corporations are hosting mindfulness training’s and schools all around the world have initiated programs to get mindfulness activities for kids into schools.

Here’s the kicker, the power of mindfulness with kids is even greater because their brains and bodies are still under development!

Here are just a few amazing ways mindfulness will improve a child’s behavior and emotional well-being.

Strengthens self-control

The goal of mindfulness is to intentionally focus your attention on the body and the breath, but because of the way we’re wired, we naturally get distracted often (aka monkey mind).

The ‘magic moment’ in mindfulness is the term used for the moment we realize we’ve lost focus (and likely started thinking about what we’ll eat for lunch or if our friend is mad at us) and intentionally bring our focus back to our body.


When your child practices consciously shifting their attention it is the equivalent of their brains self-control muscles lifting weights.

They are literally reinforcing and strengthening the neuropathways that underlie focus and self-control.

Lower’s anxiety and stress

Sadly, in today’s world, rates of anxiety in children are skyrocketing. Kids are more stressed than they’ve ever been due to fast-paced schedules, academic pressures and less time spent in play and outdoors.

When a child experiences anxiety, it activates the bodies protective stress response kicking the ‘fight or flight’ response into motion.

Mindfulness exercises are an extremely effective way to stop the anxiety symptoms in children that result (stomach aches, rapid breathing, fast heartbeat ect) and re-regulate blood pressure, breathing and heart rate.

Even better? Practicing mindfulness consistently is one of the best ways to lower a child’s anxiety by keeping your child’s baseline stress level down.

Increases positive moods

Inherent to the practice of mindfulness is an acceptance of the present moment, just as is. Much of the anxiety and depression we experience as humans stems from the avoidance and resistance of our felt emotions.

It’s easy to discourage your child from expressing their intense feelings (because it’s uncomfortable!) but this is the most common mistake in raising an emotionally intelligent child.


Feelings, both pleasant and unpleasant are universal and the sign of an emotionally healthy human being! Mindfulness activities teach your child to accept their emotions and experiences in the moment, without critical or negative judgment, allowing them the space to be acknowledged, felt, and as a result, worked through.

Better decision making

The heart of mindfulness is bringing our awareness to the present moment. Studies have shown that adults who practiced only 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation were able to make faster and better decisions because of a decreased tendency to get stuck in past narratives (holding you back from deciding) or project into the future.

Improves Emotional Regulation Skills

Want to increase the odds your child can keep their cool when they miss that soccer goal? The ability to regulate emotions means we can effectively manage our moods and upsets in a healthy and productive way.

Research shows that mindfulness changes the brain regions (in both structure and in function) in the areas responsible for a child’s emotional regulation skills.

Increases self-esteem

Many kids struggle with a negative self-image and are overly hard on themselves. A review of 17 studies showed mindfulness-based interventions significantly raised self-esteem due to the emphasis of self-acceptance and self-compassion.

Improves Health and Body Image

Mindfulness practice has been found to not only improve physical health but also promotes a positive body image. Studies have shown that mindfulness-based interventions can help positively impact our hearts, brains, immune systems, and more!

Improves social skills and communication

While the kids are outside playing you hear shrieks coming from the garage and go to investigate. “She won’t listen to my ideas!” “He always wants to do it his way!”

Mindfulness exercises will help your child get it better touch with their thoughts and feelings. With increased awareness of how they’re feeling in the moment, comes less emotional reactivity and a greater ability to listen and communicate more thoughtfully and effectively.

Full Article:


Mindfulness with Kids: 8 Life-Changing Benefits for Brain and Behavior


 BY Angela Pruess


Pruess, Angela. “Mindfulness with Kids: 8 Life-Changing Benefits for Brain and Behavior.” Parents With Confidence, 18 Nov. 2020, parentswithconfidence.com/mindfulness-with-kids/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Children are complex, and in a serious developmental stage of their lives. The strategies we give them now can set the course of the rest of their adulthood, so it is important that we give them the tools they need to regulate themselves to boost their self-confidence and lower their anxieties.

3 Components of Mindfulness and How They Impact Our Mood

An excerpt from 3 Components of Mindfulness & How They Impact Our Mood by Robert Plotkin

Mindfulness is a very broad term; there are so many aspects of mindfulness and so many different ways in which it can be practiced. With the rise in popularity of mindfulness, there have been more studies popping up about mindfulness and its benefits. One recent study set out to differentiate how different components of mindfulness impact us.


In this study, students aged 20-30 received mindfulness alerts on their smartphone 6x per day for 9 days. These alerts include things like questions about recent emotions, problems they encountered, and how mindful they had been. The questions were based on three dimensions of mindfulness:

  1. Present-Moment Attention
  2. Nonjudgmental Acceptance
  3. Acting with Awareness

Research findings discovered that each of these dimensions lead to different benefits for those practicing mindfulness.

Present-Moment Attention

This was the strongest predictor of increased positive emotions in the students who were more aware in the present moment indicated that they felt happier and better overall. Why might this be? When you allow your attention to wander it shifts to things like anticipation of future events or regrets about the past.

When you notice your mind wandering, try focusing on your breath or something in your current surroundings.

Nonjudgmental Acceptance

The ability to withhold judgments of your experiences and emotions was strongly linked to a decrease in negative emotions. This means not labeling your experiences as good or bad or placing labels on yourself and others around you and accepting everyone and everything around you for what they are.

Instead of thinking that person is annoying, change your mindset to something like this person has asked me 4 questions in the last two minutes and is making it difficult to complete my work. You’re still noting your emotions toward the person, but without judgment and without labels.

Acting with Awareness

Although you’ve probably seen mindfulness practices that ask us to do everything with intention and awareness, rather than on autopilot, this study actually discovered that acting with awareness has little to no ability to predict people’s positive or negative feelings.

So, if you want to feel more positive, keep your mind in the present moment. If you want to feel less negative, learn to accept without judgment.

Full Article:


3 Components of Mindfulness & How They Impact Our Mood


 BY Robert Plotkin


Plotkin, Robert. “3 Components of Mindfulness & How They Impact Our Mood.” Technology for Mindfulness, 6 Nov. 2019, technologyformindfulness.com/3-components-of-mindfulness-how-they-impact-our-mood/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

Having simple steps to Mindfulness can make a concept that seems so overwhelming and difficult a little more comprehensive in a time in which you really need it. Sometimes being in the moment may feel like the last thing you want to do, but when you approach your current situation with attention, you can more easily overcome it.

How Toxic Stress Derails Healthy Development

The future of any society depends on its ability to foster the healthy development of the next generation. Extensive research on the biology of stress now shows that healthy development can be derailed by excessive or prolonged activation of stress response systems in the body and brain. Such toxic stress can have damaging effects on learning, behavior, and health across the lifespan.

Learning how to cope with adversity is an important part of healthy child development. When we are threatened, our bodies prepare us to respond by increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones, such as cortisol. When a young child’s stress response systems are activated within an environment of supportive relationships with adults, these physiological effects are buffered and brought back down to baseline. The result is the development of healthy stress response systems. However, if the stress response is extreme and long-lasting, and buffering relationships are unavailable to the child, the result can be damaged, weakened systems and brain architecture, with lifelong repercussions. It’s important to distinguish among three kinds of responses to stress: positive, tolerable, and toxic. As described below, these three terms refer to the stress response systems’ effects on the body, not to the stressful event or experience itself:

Positive Stress Response

A normal and essential part of healthy development, characterized by brief increases in heart rate and mild elevations in hormone levels. Some situations that might trigger a positive stress response are the first day with a new caregiver or receiving an injected immunization.

Tolerable stress response

This activates the body’s alert systems to a greater degree as a result of more severe, longer-lasting difficulties, such as the loss of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a frightening injury. If the activation is time-limited and buffered by relationships with adults who help the child adapt, the brain and other organs recover from what might otherwise be damaging effects.

Toxic stress response

This can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity—such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship—without adequate adult support. This kind of prolonged activation of the stress response systems can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years.

When toxic stress response occurs continually, or is triggered by multiple sources, it can have a cumulative toll on an individual’s physical and mental health—for a lifetime. The more adverse experiences in childhood, the greater the likelihood of developmental delays and later health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, and depression. Research also indicates that supportive, responsive relationships with caring adults as early in life as possible can prevent or reverse the damaging effects of toxic stress response.

Full Article:

Toxic Stress

BY The Harvard Center on the Developing Child

Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child. “Toxic Stress.” Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 17 Aug. 2020, developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/toxic-stress/.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this video because realizing the difference between Positive, Tolerable, and Toxic stress can be the difference between a healthy and unhealthy lifestyle. Sometimes even every-day stress can make you feel like the sky is falling, but when you have the tools to properly identify your stress, it makes it easier to fix take control of it.

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