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Women’s Health & Stress: Inequality’s Impact

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It’s International Women’s Day tomorrow, and in Canada, we’ve got a lot to be proud of. Since Nellie McClung, we’ve been leaders in women’s rights and equality.

But the statistics show we have a long way to go: the pay gap is unsettling.

“According to Catalyst Canada, a nonprofit organization that focuses on expanding opportunities for women and business, Canadian women earn $0.82 to every $1 earned by men. That’s marginally better than the U.S.’s $0.78 for every $1, but sets the gap in Canada at 18 per cent — much higher than in other countries, specifically in Europe.” (Huffington Post)

Why are we talking about paycheques here? I mean, this is a natural health blog, right?

Right. We’re not economists or policy activists, but we are more than usually expert in the topic of stress. And inequality is stressful.

Why Pay Inequality Heightens Women’s Stress

With the extra eighteen cents on every dollar that a man makes, he can buy freedom from certain stresses, including:

  • help around the house,
  • better groceries
  • pre-made meals
  • alternative health care
  • vacations
  • fitness memberships and coaching
  • child care
  • …and the list goes on!

When women make less money, they live with more of the stress that their higher-earning male counterparts can outsource.

And there is evidence that women experience more stress than men.

Research from the Vanier Institute found that “women were more likely than men to experience burnout and depressive states due to stress, and unlike men who typically relax at home, the blood pressure of female managers and professionals actually goes up at home.”

That’s because women still perform more unpaid work than men: they put in more hours caring for the home and children.

Let’s Not Keep Calm About Women’s Health & Stress

Usually, we carry the “keep calm” banner, but when it comes to equality, we don’t think calm is the answer. We think more men and more women should speak out when they see inequality in the workplace and in the home.

Hopefully, by the time our daughters are working and raising families, the gap will be closed.

But today? Tomorrow?

In Canada, perhaps being aware — and being empathetic — is next best to speaking out.

When we see women who are clearly under stress — or when we, as women, are stressed — let’s remember: it’s not because we’re hormonal or sensitive or emotional or fragile. It’s because women’s lives are, statistically, more stressful.

Women’s lives are also more painful. Gender inequality research reported by Harvard showed that while 70% of people who experience chronic pain are women, treatment is geared towards men and many women don’t get equal treatment for pain.

Why Women’s Stress is Our Priority

We’re a female-founded company with a huge base of women fans.

That’s because Natural Calm helps with hormones, reproductive health and conditions like anxiety and migraines, which disproportionately affect women.

We also focus on women’s health in the world’s poorest communities, and we reach those women through the not-for-profit we founded, Thrive for Good.

Empowering Women Globally Through Nutrition

As you may know, when we started Thrive (then, Organics 4 Orphans) organization, our focus was on helping the millions of orphans in Africa –- but as it turns out, the best way to help children is to help women.

Through Thrive, we’ve been able to train and equip thousands of women to grow Life Gardens with which they feed their families and generate much-needed income. 

How Thrive for Good Helps Women & Girls

Thrive programs reach girls in schools, and through our elementary and high school programs, girls develop skills to grow enough food to transform their own health and the health of their families.

Thrive trains and equips mothers, many of whom say their children were always sick.  When those mothers grow an abundance of nutritious foods and natural, herbal medicines, they see a transformation in their families’ health.

Imagine the burden of stress that’s lifted when you don’t have to worry about how you’ll afford the next trip to the hospital or medicine for your child?

Thrive is a lifeline for grandmothers who have become the sole caretakers of multiple children because they are the last living, responsible adults in their families.

Instead of going hungry, these grandmother-led families are thriving. Imagine the relief when you know you can keep your grandchildren together, healthy, alive? All with what you grow using your own two hands.

In recent years, we’ve also brought Thrive for Good training into women’s prisons in Kenya to teach inmates how to grow nutrient-dense food and medicine.  Many are incarcerated for crimes of self-defense; for killing their attackers, including abusive husbands. Unfortunately, the justice system is not always just.

If we were lawyers, we would fight for them in the courts. But we’re nutrition and organic food experts, so we help these women by training them to use their hands, tools, and even the most marginal land to grow what they need.

Within the prison walls, they’re beginning to cultivate food and herbs that will keep them healthy and strong.

Nutrition and Health Security Are Stepping Stones to Women’s Equality

Thrive is about more than just food and medicine.

With the skills to grow their own organic food, women who train with Thrive will be more resilient, less dependent, and gain status in their communities. They will be producers, experts, healers.

Like our own Joyce Juma — an incredible leader at Thrive who joined us at 19, after a life of feeling like a burden to her grandparents… burdened by mundane household work, without hope for her future.

Now, Joyce is a respected community leader with a meaningful career.

Women Are the Backbone of Communities: Let’s Support their Health & Address Women’s Poverty

Since 2005, I’ve seen Africa’s Mamas, as they are called, strive tirelessly to feed and care for their children, grandchildren, and the kids in need who turn up at their doors.

They’re called ‘Mamas’ because they are caregivers, whatever their age or stage in life. They take in orphans in astonishing numbers. Many of Africa’s 55 million orphans are under the informal care of these community pillars. The Mamas are my heroes.

The Mamas are my heroes.

Many of these women walk for miles to obtain water that you and I would not bathe in. They cook their main meal of ugali or white rice in one pot over an open fire that they build with wood they gathered and carried. They feed and shelter the children in the mud huts and shacks that they construct themselves, out of whatever they can find.

Thrive for Good is Making a Difference for Women Living in Poverty

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It’s wonderful to see the excitement in the eyes of these amazing women when they attend one of Thrive’s workshops. So many have entrepreneurial gifts. When they learn about organic gardening, natural medicine, nutrition, and income through agriculture, they light up with hope.

Irene, a 55-year-old woman who attended one of our workshops, went back to her ¼ acre plot and dug 42 garden beds! This lady was raising 10 orphans, five of whom were her own grandchildren.

My husband Dale and I went to see her gardens, and they were magnificent. She is now able to feed her children everything they need to thrive.

Irene didn’t stop there, though. She took the next step and cultivated a surplus. What her family couldn’t eat, she sold locally, earning money to buy a mattress. It was the first time she’d slept on anything but burlap corn bags.

Another woman, Mary, attended our Organic Agricultural Training school in 2014. She was so excited to learn about green-leaf nutrition, green smoothies, and medicinal herbs that she opened a successful small restaurant selling green smoothies, fresh vegetables, and her powdered greens. Mary came back to our seminar this past January to share her story with our students.

When we empower women like Irene and Mary, the impact is exponential. These women raise the standard of living in their homes and communities. The children in their care get a chance to reach their full potential.

We know that women universally will only be equal with widespread, system-wide change. But in the meantime, we are doing our part to change their lives at a grassroots level.

We couldn’t do it without you. Your support for Natural Calm makes all of this possible.

Life is still hugely unfair for women all over the world, but every act of solidarity makes a difference.

So, thank you.

Thank you for supporting Natural Calm with your purchases. And thank you for supporting Thrive with your donations.

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