International Womens Day - Life Without Plastic
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*Update (30 March 2016): The original title for this post was “If Women Were in Control…”, but that does not accurately describe the point I intended to make. It’s not about either women or men being “in control”. I think control should be shared. It’s about equality and equal rights for women and men across the board.

This post is less about plastic, and more about women. After all, today is International Women’s Day. It is truly a day to celebrate wholeheartedly.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is encouraging everyone to make a pledge for gender parity… #pledgeforparity. There are lots of ways to take action toward gender parity.

In my experience what is especially important for most women is not raw power or control, but community and equality. And my experience has also shown me that the power of women in community has a divine, enlightened quality to it.

If women did have more control at all levels – and were more involved in global decision-making as equals – here’s a bit of what I think the world would look like…

It would be a fairer and more compassionate world. The best interests of the child and the environment would be considered in all major decisions. Food, water, shelter, and basic healthcare would be distributed more evenly throughout the world to those in need. The global economy would be more open and reflective of day-to-day life around the world. In particular, women’s highly productive but often unpaid work would be fairly valued for the foundational contribution it makes to all societies. Women who are in paid work would be paid as well as men. There would be less war – maybe none at all. Horrific injustices, such as rape and sexual assault, would be dealt with swiftly without the victims being ignored or stigmatized — 240 girls in Kenya between three and seventeen would not have to bring a class action lawsuit against their own government for failing to protect them from being raped. (Fortunately they wonsetting a major international precedent.)

In short, the world would be a more harmonious global community.

International Womens Day - Life Without Plastic
Image credit: National Film Board of Canada

Marilyn Waring is Counting

As a student in Montreal in the 1990’s, I had the opportunity to get to know Oscar-winning filmmaker Terre Nash. She was making a film through the National Film Board about internationally recognized political economist, environmentalist and feminist, Marilyn Waring. She showed me a rough cut of her film:  Who’s Counting: Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics (which you can watch via this link).

It absolutely blew me away. It opened up a whole new way of looking at the world and the intersections between women, the environment, and the economy.

The film flows from Waring’s life work revealing how the modern global economic system is deeply flawed in the way it fails to give value to key elements of life, including unpaid work — much of which is done by women — and a clean environment. Her 1988 book If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics (updated and reprinted in 1999 as Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth) describes in comprehensive detail how women are considered ‘non-producers’ — because so much of their work is unpaid, such as in the home — and thus they cannot expect to gain from the distribution of benefits that flow from production.

Now in 2016, there is still a long way to go on the economic front — even regarding the glaringly basic notion of women being paid the same as men. A recent report by Oxfam (p. 4) describes the sad current state:

Oxfam’s experience with women workers around the world, from Myanmar to Morocco, is that they are barely scraping by on poverty wages. Women make up the majority low-paid workers and are concentrated in the most precarious jobs. Meanwhile, chief executive salaries have rocketed. CEOs at the top US firms have seen their salaries increase by more than half (by 54.3%) since 2009, while ordinary wages have barely moved. The CEO of India’s top information technology firm makes 416 times the salary of a typical employee there. Women hold just 24 of the CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies.

But hopeful change is happening as never before.  In her visionary and powerful book Ascent of Women: Our Turn, Our Way–A Remarkable Story of Worldwide Change, Sally Armstrong states (p. 4):

Today, women are becoming a force so powerful that everyone from presidents to pollsters is beginning to see us in a new light — as the way to end poverty and conflict, as the means of improving the economy. It’s a change in attitude that centuries of women have worked toward.

The Wakefield Grannies’ Women’s Voices and Man-Made Desserts

One of the most powerful and tightly organized groups of women I have ever encountered reside in our home community of Wakefield, Quebec, Canada. They are the Wakefield Grannies, born in 2004 of 12 local women’s collective desire and commitment to assist AIDS orphans and their grandmothers in Alexandra Township, South Africa.

This year they have organized a fundraising Special Cabaret-ConcertWomen’s Voices — in celebration of International Women’s Day. Our community is blessed with a plethora of talented art and musicmakers, and several of the female gems will be performing this evening:  Jesse Greene, Kristine St-Pierre, The Paugan Dames (Chris MacLean, Alise Marlane, Tina Therrien), Pat Moore, Deborah Thomson, Anouk Gregoire, and performance artist Elizabeth Logue.

International Womens Day - Women's Voices - Life Without Plastic
Image credit: Wakefield Grannies

And there’s even a way for the men to show their appreciation for women via the Great Granny Man-Made Dessert Auction:  a buffet of desserts made by local men in honour of all women.

Local Wakefield Granny and elegant wordsmith Ruth Salmon has been promoting the event on community e-mail lists over the past week with little anecdotes about some of the man-made desserts the Grannies will be auctioning off.  Here are a few of her entries to give you a taste of our community:

Did you try the scrumptious crêpes at the Wakefield market last season made by local farmer Gab Jort-Pelletier? Well, if you thought Gab’s crepes at the market were great, wait until you see what he’s cooking up for the Great Granny Man-Made Dessert Auction.

He’s not just our pinup in April’s nude calendar or your go to guy for roof shovelling or window washing, Simon McNeill has been researching his British roots and consulting with his elders. He promises a fancied up bread pudding like no other for his contribution.

Are you gluten-free but love your sweets? Dick Smith will be making his famous gluten-free Shortbreads and René Gemme will be wowing us all with a gluten-free Walnut Cake.

When I think of Rob Grace I think of overalls, building materials and the smell of wood. That’s about to change now that I picture him on a desert island dreaming of the yummy Chocolate Pear Tortes he makes that are so good he’s incapable of not eating the entire torte in an evening.

Rumour has it that Marc Ranger, sailor and shipbuilder, is new to this dessert business. They say he is searching the Internet, perhaps even finding tutorials in order to excel at this new endeavour. Can’t wait to see what he comes up with. I tried to get the Village Poet to make an apple crisp but he just shook his head and hummed before saying “I don’t do that.” We still love you Phil.

Be sure to check out the contributions of the father-son combo, Bill & Peter Meldrum, creators of the ultimate chilly climate comfort food confections – Blueberry Raspberry Bundt Cake with Lemon cream cheese icing (Bill), and Bavarian Apple Cheesecake (Pete).

We know him as an actor, playwright, grandfather and much more but did you know that John Hardie makes a dynamite Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake? He may be channeling one of his alter egos to do it…or not.

We all know Rob Moeller’s magic with chocolate and are delighted that he will make a dozen Ferme et Forêt Maple Syrup Cupcakes topped with Buttercream Chocolate Icing.

Are you salivating yet? Apparently, even the Mayor is cooking up some shortbread.

I too have the honour of contributing a dessert to this delectable auction. I was thrilled to be asked by luminous Granny Ilse Turnsen to participate and represent her in the Auction.

I’m part Bengali and my dessert is a Bengali delicacy called Payesh. It’s an aromatic take on rice pudding, one of the ultimate global comfort foods. As with many of the most powerful and meaningful things in life, it’s a simple mix of high quality ingredients — starting with fresh whole milk, then basmati rice and bay leaves from La Forêt, and… maple syrup from Älska Farm. Normally, in India, the sweetener would be gour — crystallized natural sugarcane — but there’s not a lot of sugarcane in the Gatineau Hills, so liquid gold it is. And naturally, the payesh will be served up in a complimentary airtight glass container with stainless steel lid, courtesy of Life Without Plastic.

It will be a thrilling day. Magical women’s voices and art. Sweetness crafted by men in honour of women. Granny-inspired lush community action. Funds raised to help orphans and “Gogo” Grannies in South Africa.

A final word to bring us back full circle to plastic…

The problems of plastic toxicity and pollution are symbolic of a careless, wasteful consumer society gone awry. When ocean plankton are being decimated from without and within by plastic, the problems are utterly serious:  plankton are at the base of the aquatic food chain, and phytoplankton also produce up to 50% of global oxygen (while being a major carbon dioxide sink). They are fundamental to all life on Earth.

I suspect that if women were more in control, there would be less plastic in the world — and more plankton.

Let’s right the balance of power, shall we?

International Womens Day - Womens VoicesIn honour of International Women’s Day, Life Without Plastic is having a one day storewide sale on 8 March 2016. Use the following coupon code at checkout for 10% off your order:  WOMEN


By Jay Sinha, Co-Owner & Co-Founder, Life Without Plastic