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A guide to some of the many fantastic organizations & charities to support this International Women's Day

International Women’s Day shines a spotlight not only on the remarkable power and strength of women we respect, and also on many of the fantastic organizations working tirelessly to help women in need. A list that could be endless, we’ve highlighted some of the many organizations we admire. If you’re looking for a way to help today, here are some places to consider donating a little bit of your money or your time. For some organizations, educating yourself and spreading awareness of their services is help enough. If you’re in need, these programs could be the helping hand that makes all the difference. Maternal health, eating disorders, rape, abuse, mental health, literacy: these are just some of the myriad issues that effect women all over the world. Empowerment can come from anywhere, anyone, and anything, be it the gift of period supplies so a girl can go to school, the support of a feminist teen mag that rouses the next generation of inspiring women, or putting your name, face, and voice to a world map of people united against rape. Even the smallest action, like donating a bag of old clothes to a shelter like Eva’s Initiatives can make a difference. Please feel free to comment with your own suggestions of wonderful and worthwhile organizations, and see the bottom of the article for access to even more resources. Happy International Women’s Day, from us to you and around the world: do something to spread the lady love!

WomenWatch: UN Information and Resources on Gender Equality and Empowerment for Women
The United Nations page for International Women’s Day is a wealth of information on the history and meaning of this important international day of recognition. WomenWatch is also a fantastic resource, where you will find links to inspiring organizations like STOP RAPE NOW: UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict and articles on a range of topics, like gender dimensions of agricultural and rural employment. Educate yourself about the state of women the world over, and find a cause to connect to on this information-rich website.

Sheena’s Place
Sheena’s Place is named after Sheena Carpenter, a young woman who suffered and eventually died from an eating disorder. They offer a non-institutional space of help and welcome to people who are also struggling. Their no-cost programs are designed to support both sufferers and their families. As they receive no government funding, they rely heavily on donations and volunteers to run the program.
Click here for a comprehensive list of fundraising initiatives, or here for information on volunteer opportunities. To donate now, click here.

Maggie’s
In its mission statement, Maggie’s describes their goal of providing “education, advocacy, and support to assist sex workers to live and work with safety and dignity.” They provide legal advocacy, health and safety supplies and information, informal counselling, and a place for sex workers to connect and share information, with the hope that one day sex workers will be able to form unions or professional associations to protect their rights. They work within a harm reduction framework, which means they strive to help sex workers live safer lives and know their rights. Too often, the dangers faced by this marginalized population go unnoticed due to social mores. Places like Maggie’s help give sex workers a voice.

Literature for Life
Literature for Life helps marginalized mothers in the GTA teach their children to read. Distributing books, facilitating reading circles, and selecting reading material that is educational for both mother and child are just some of the ways Literature for Life helps generations of families in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods benefit from the gift of literacy.

416 Community Support for Women
This is a daytime drop-in program that helps women coping with struggles like addiction, isolation, and mental health issues. They provide everything from meals and a food bank to social and recreational programs. You can donateor volunteerto help.

June Callwood Centre for Women and Families
Located between Regent Park and Moss Park, June’s Centre helps pregnant and parenting teenagers under the age of 18. A multiresource centre whose services include housing, healthcare, counselling, and respite care.

Every Mother Counts
Christy Turlington Burns started Every Mother Counts to raise awareness about issues surrounding maternal health, and the challenges faced by many women when it comes to receiving proper care for themselves and their infants. On their website, you can watch a trailer from a documentary directed by Turlington Burns about the issue, sign the petition, learn more about infant mortality rates, and what you can do to help.

Huru International
Did you know that in many international relief kits for disaster victims, tampons and sanitary napkins aren’t included? Funny, since just over half the world’s population is women. That’s where Huru comes in, providing women with the supplies they need so that being on their period doesn’t prevent them from attending school or work. Brought to our attention by the fantastic ladies (and muppets) of Crankytown, Huru means freedom in Swahili, and on International Women’s Day, when you sponsor one period and send someone a HURU Kit, they’ll match your donation and send another kit to a woman in need. Cramps for a cause!

Red Door Family Shelter
The Red Door Family Shelter provides emergency housing for people and families who are victims of domestic violence. You can help them in their mission by donating, volunteering, giving a gift, or organizing or participating in an event. More information on how to help can be found here.

Shameless Magazine.
An independent feminist magazine for young women and trans youth, Shameless is the grassroots magazine I wish we all got to cut our teeth on (it also has some serious chops, nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2005). Help them reach out to youth by clicking above to join the Hall of Shameless and donate.

Medecins Sans Frontiers Focus on Fistula
An estimated 2 million women, mostly on the African continent, live with Fistula worldwide. Fistula is one of the gravest consequences of obstructed labour, and a source of shame for many women. Mothers in Africa are usually giving birth at home, and it can be days before they can be taken to a hospital. By this time, they have often lost their child. MSF is working to create better ways to treat these women, setting up camps and hosting a conference in Geneva that coincides with International Women’s Day and targets the issue.

Dignitas International
Dignitas International operates fantastic programs dealing with the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS. Click the above link to find out how you can help their initiatives and donate or volunteer.

Looking for help, or an opportunity to help? 211Toronto.ca is a fantastic and comprehensive resource of community programs in Toronto. Looking for a shelter that supports and understands your specific culture and beliefs? A food bank, or a crisis hotline? 211 Toronto is an amazing resource.

~Haley Cullingham

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