The Slaight Family Foundation announces $15M Global Initiative for Women and Girls

TORONTO (MARCH 3, 2020) – To mark International Women’s Day, The Slaight Family Foundation is donating $15 million to 15 international organizations working to improve human rights and opportunities for women and girls.

The recipient organizations – working mainly in impoverished, fragile or conflict-affected areas – each focus on different issues facing women and girls, including 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,” said Gary Slaight of The Slaight Family Foundation. “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.”

“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,” said Dr. Samantha Nutt, President of War Child Canada. “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.”

Since 2013, The Slaight Family Foundation has funded several strategic initiatives to multiple organizations. These initiatives started with gifts to five Toronto hospitals to support priority healthcare issues, followed by programs to address global humanitarianism, healthy development of children and youth across Canada, support for Indigenous issues and, last year, a seniors’ initiative to help keep seniors in their homes and communities, including the Allan Slaight Seniors’ Fund at the United Way Greater Toronto.

Project Information

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.

For more information:

Jeri Brown, Media Profile

[email protected]

Office: 416-342-1834 Mobile: 416-455-7188

The Rom

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, June 5, 2019/CNW/

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative takes over valuable programs from Child Soldiers International

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (Dallaire Initiative) and Child Soldiers International (CSI) announced today that the Dallaire Initiative is taking over the international programs from CSI, which is officially closing its operations on June 7, 2019. The Dallaire Initiative is honoured to carry forward CSI’s valuable contributions to the cause, and CSI is confident and proud to hand over its work to them.

Dr. Shelly Whitman, Executive Director of the Dallaire Initiative, said: “We place immense value on the work CSI has undertaken as the founders of the global movement to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers, as well as the relationships and collaboration we have enjoyed over the years. Although we are sad to lose them as collaborators and colleagues, we wanted to ensure that the important work started by CSI lives on through the handover of key existing programs and resources. CSI’s legacy and work, particularly on global advocacy and community-based prevention and reintegration, will continue to advance the body of knowledge pertaining to understanding and preventing the recruitment and use of children as soldiers. We are also confident that it will better inform our activities, optimize our impact globally and ensure the world understands the need to continue to put resources towards ending this tragedy.”

Isabelle Guitard, Director of Child Soldiers International, said: “We are thrilled that our global work to prevent the military recruitment and use of children will be taken forward by the Dallaire Initiative. Like us, they believe that prevention is better than cure. They are renowned and respected advocates of children’s rights in conflict, with whom we have worked closely for years in our mutual efforts to prevent the involvement of children in armed conflict. We know that our work and legacy will continue through their hard-working and passionate team.”

The Dallaire Initiative is taking over the DRC and South Sudan community led prevention and reintegration programs. Both programs compliment the already existing programs the Dallaire Initiative is conducting in South Sudan and the DRC. In addition, the Dallaire Initiative will host and continue the Child Soldiers World Index, and its global research, policy and advocacy work. The World Index is an important resource for child protection actors and the Dallaire Initiative is eager to not only take it on, but combine it with their exciting new Knowledge for Prevention research that aims to create a better global estimate on the numbers of children recruited and used as soldiers. A statistically informed global estimate, combined with the World Index platform, has the power to demonstrate progress on the issue as well as to continue to galvanize support to continue the fight to improve efforts to end this crime against humanity.

The Dallaire Initiative will not be taking on CSI’s UK program campaign. This will be taken over by the London-based Child Rights International Network (CRIN).

Both CSI and the Dallaire Initiative have championed the belief that it is immoral for adults to use children in war. Collaboration on international advocacy and implementation by both organizations on the OPAC, the Safe Schools Declaration, the Paris Principles and the Vancouver Principles demonstrated this common aim. Children should not fight wars and one day we will make their recruitment and use “unthinkable”.


About the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

Founded by retired lieutenant-general Roméo Dallaire, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (Dallaire Initiative) believes that in order to progressively end the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, the world must focus on effective prevention. It is the Dallaire Initiative’s unique approach to affecting beliefs, attitudes and behavior change through our pedagogical approaches that leverage our relationship to work with the security sector through a prevention-oriented lens, that defines our organizational imperative and creates lasting impacts well beyond the immediate interventions. The Dallaire Initiative co-authored the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in 2017 with the Government of Canada.

About Child Soldiers International

Child Soldiers International (CSI) was formerly the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. Established in 1998 by a group of leading human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Save the Children, its original purpose was to campaign for a human rights treaty to prevent the military recruitment of children and their use in conflict. This treaty, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC), entered into force in 2002. In 2011 it became an independent UK registered charity, connected with a network of local and national child rights and child protection organisations across the world. CSI will close its doors on 7 June 2019, due to an increasingly challenging operating and funding environment for small NGOs.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Amara Bangura
Sr. Communications Officer
The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative
+1 (902) 494-7853 (office)
[email protected]

Isabelle Guitard (until 7 June)
Child Soldiers International
[email protected]


The International Day of UN Peacekeepers: Protect Children to Protect Peace

Halifax, Nova Scotia May 29th

The International Day of UN Peacekeepers: Protect Children to Protect Peace

Today, on the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (Dallaire Initiative) honours all peacekeepers around the world who have sacrificed their lives to help bring peace to conflict-affected countries.

UN peacekeepers continue to play a crucial role in helping these countries and their people find peace and stability. The International Day of UN Peacekeepers is therefore observed annually on May 29th, and this year’s theme “Protecting Civilians, Protecting Peace” also marks the upcoming 20th anniversary of the first ever Security Council mandated peacekeeping mission designed explicitly to protect civilians in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in 1999.

Sierra Leone today is a peaceful country on Africa’s West Coast, but the anniversary reminds us of the challenges to protect peace. During its decade-long civil war, 10,000 child soldiers were recruited and used as soldiers by all parties to the conflict. Today, however, the country is one of the first African countries to endorse the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers. It has also undergone significant security sector reforms and is now contributing troops to the UN and African Union peacekeeping missions in various conflict zones.

“We are extremely proud of how Sierra Leone has emerged as strong advocate for the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers across the globe,” says Dallaire Initiative Executive Director, Dr. Shelly Whitman.

The Dallaire Initiative has been working with the security sector in Sierra Leone since 2012. This week, our team of expert trainers are in the country to continue the collaborative development of an integrated training program. Together with our partners, the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, the Sierra Leone Police, and the Sierra Leone Correctional Services, we are supporting the world’s first integrated security sector curriculum focused on the prevention of the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

The Dallaire Initiative believes that if we are to collectively “protect civilians as a means to protect the peace”, we must empower security sector actors with the appropriate training, tools, and resources to protect children. This also requires us to understand that the realities of conflict demand new approaches and practical strategies to better protect both children and soldiers from physical and psychological harm. We believe that by taking a Children’s Rights Upfront approach – which means placing children at the top of the international peace and security agenda – it will,in turn, contribute to improving overall peace and security globally and ultimately, the mandate of UN peacekeepers to better protect civilians.


About the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

Founded by retired lieutenant-general Roméo Dallaire, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (Dallaire Initiative) believes that in order to progressively end the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, the world must focus on effective prevention. It is the Dallaire Initiative’s unique approach to affecting beliefs, attitudes and behavior change through our pedagogical approaches that leverage our relationship to work with the security sector through a prevention-oriented lens, that defines our organizational imperative and creates lasting impacts well beyond the immediate interventions.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Amara Bangura
Sr. Communications Officer
The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative
+1 (902) 494-7853 (office)
[email protected]





Child Soldiers and Fiction: Black Panther

Dustin Johnson

Warning: this post contains spoilers for Black Panther.

This is the first post in an ongoing series on the portrayal of child soldiers in works of fiction.

Whether explicitly acknowledge or not, child soldiers commonly appear in works of fiction, some speculative like Black Panther or the Hunger Games, some historical like books on the Second World War. Child soldiers are often portrayed across a spectrum of sometimes conflicting roles, whether as heroes, victims, villains, or children caught up in the events of their world.

Black Panther portrays child soldiers both as victims of adults waging a war, worthy of being saved from their circumstances, and as heroes necessary to the defeat of the movie’s villain.

Early in the movie, T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and known as the Black Panther, attacks a convoy of militants driving through the forest and easily dispatches them. Just as T’Challa is about to kill the last militant, the Wakandan spy Nakia, who had been posing as one of a group of kidnapped girls in one of the trucks, stays his hand, as the final militant was a child soldier kidnapped at the same time as the girls.

The location is specifically identified on screen as Sambisa Forest, an area in northeastern Nigeria that until recently was the stronghold of the very real armed group Boko Haram, infamous for their use of child soldiers and child suicide bombers. The dress of the militants and of the girls they are holding captive, and their use of child soldiers, along with the location, indicates that they are in fact supposed to be Boko Haram.

This scene realistically depicts child soldiers as we often think about them in the real world: children forced or coerced into fighting or carrying out other tasks for an armed group, who deserve a second chance even after they have been given a gun and put into battle. With some useful, if last-minute, intelligence from Nakia, T’Challa is able to avoid killing one of the child soldiers, who can now return home with the kidnapped girls.

It should be noted though that leaving the children to fend for themselves in the forest, rather than first taking them to the appropriate child protection authorities before returning to Wakanda, was probably not in their best interest.

Later in the film, we see a different portrayal of a child soldier, one who is a hero and only fights because of the circumstances she is pressed into. T’Challa’s sister Shuri is a genius who leads Wakanda’s technological development, and is 16 in the movie. During the final battle with Killmonger, the movie’s charismatic villain, she joins the fight with some of her technology, firing on Killmonger before he almost kills her.

These differing portrayals of child soldiers in the film illustrate the complexities of the use of child soldiers in the real world, across different motivations, ages, and roles. Children can be forced or coerced into fighting, but also choose to do so, whether for survival, protection, or supporting a cause. They take on a variety of roles, some involving fighting, some in support. Some are quite young, others are older teenagers, and many view themselves as adults, as Shuri likely does due to her significant responsibilities.

These tropes of child soldiers as either heroes, villains, or victims are quite common in Western literature and cinema. In some works, one or more is used simplistically or uncritically, while in others they are woven together with more nuance. While Black Panther does not dwell on these issues as much as movies they are central to, such as the Hunger Games series, it draws in very real-world scenarios and complexities with Boko Haram, and portraying a very politically engaged and important child who comes to fight through necessity.

Photo from European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.





Allons-y Volume 3: Call for Papers on Children and Armed Conflict

When it comes to international peace and security, children are often viewed as an afterthought.

We focus mostly on the geopolitical dimensions of conflicts and crises, the involvement of major powers like the United States, Russia, and China, and the potential of crisis to escalate into major international wars. We ignore how conflict and crisis impacts children and youth, and how they influence these events.

Whether it is the use of child soldiers by most parties to the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the children injured and killed by chemical weapons in Syria, the fifty percent of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh who are children, Venezuelan kids growing up hungry, or the fear experienced by their counterparts in Hawaii due to a missile attack false alarm, conflict and crisis has a profound effect on children and youth, harming them and the future of our societies.

All too often children and youth are considered an afterthought, unimportant actors on the global stage—except when viewed as a threat. Despite the Convention on the Rights of the Child being the most ratified human rights treaty in the world – the US alone has not ratified it – issues facing children and youth are seldom considered in peace negotiations, their voices often go unheard in politics and government, and their contributions to and role in the world are underappreciated by academia, governments, businesses, and the general public.

To understand, respond to, and help resolve crisis and conflict, we need a better understanding of all the actors involved, and this includes children and youth. The ways they experience, contribute to, and help to resolve these challenges require exploration and attention, while the voices of children and youth must be listened to and amplified.

Children and youth bring unique perspectives and fresh ideas, and tend not to be as jaded, cynical, or reactionary as their older peers.  Even more importantly, they have a deep desire to feel empowered to address some of the world’s largest challenges. To bring the energy and expertise of youth to questions of children and armed conflict, we at the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative have been publishing an academic journal focused on contributions from authors under 30. Now in its third volume, we are seeking papers from young scholars and practitioners on how the most pressing conflicts and crises, as examined by International Crisis Group last month, impact and are impacted by children and youth.

When published, this volume will pair the work of young scholars with short commentaries by experts in the field, presenting a combination of fresh insights with expert knowledge. In previous volumes we have published papers examining such questions as whether and how we should view children involved in cyberwarfare as child soldiers, and how the traditional involvement of children in cattle raiding in South Sudan was leveraged into a key recruitment method in the current civil war there.

We invite you to contribute to Allons-y by February 26th.




Case Study: Protecting Education from Attack

In June 2016, the Dallaire Initiative was contacted by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) to discuss the development of a training toolkit to accompany the Safe Schools Declaration. The Dallaire Initiative was then contracted to develop a training toolkit that could be tested and used to educate the military on the Safe Schools Declaration implementation and adherence. As a direct result of the secondment of Mr. Gbow in AMISOM, we were able to have his input into the toolkit and the testing of the toolkit with the AMISOM troops. The final toolkit was officially presented in Buenos Aires in March 2017 and was received on a global scale with overwhelming success.

As part of AMISOM


Quick 5: Children Affected by Armed Conflict in the News

By: Dustin Johnson

Read some of the top stories we are following around the world this week.

UN chief calls Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis ‘catastrophic’ as Security Council condemns violence

In a rare rebuke, the United Nations Security Council has “expressed deep concern” about the situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where over 370,000 Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee across the border to Bangladesh to escape increasing levels of violence.

CNN, September 13th

Child soldier recruits double in one year in Middle East and North Africa

The number of children recruited to fight in conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa has more than doubled in a year, UN analysis has found. The huge increase in child soldiers in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and other countries follows years of ongoing violence, displacement and a lack of basic services, which has reduced the coping mechanisms of families, according to Unicef.

The Guardian, September 11th

Mass graves, missing bodies, and mysticism: Inside Congo’s spiralling Kasai conflict

Piles of disturbed earth covered with nettles and weeds hide the mass graves of Nganza, a neighbourhood in Kananga, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai Central region. Children stroll across them barefoot as if they aren’t even there. A ball rolls over from a nearby football match.

IRIN News, September 12th

Iraq holding 1,400 foreign ‘ISIL wives, children’

Iraqi authorities are holding about 1,400 foreign wives and children of suspected ISILfighters in a camp after government forces expelled the group from one of its last remaining strongholds in Iraq, security and aid officials said.

Al Jazeera, September 11th

Young Canadian ISIS recruit says he saw violence on scale he could never have imagined

In early 2014, a young Toronto-area man who went by the jihadi nom de guerre “Abu Huzaifa al-Kanadi” (Abu Huzaifa the Canadian) cleaned out his bank account and left to join the ranks of ISIS.

CBC News, September 11th





Quick 5: Children Affected by Armed Conflict in the News

By: Dustin Johnson

Read some of the top stories we are following around the world this week.

Nigeria’s Boko Haram conflict: Huge rise in child ‘human bombs’

There has been a significant increase in the number of children used as human bombs by Boko Haram militants in north-east Nigeria, the United Nations says.

BBC News, August 22nd

An education in terror

Mutassim is nervous. The 16-year-old has never flown in a plane before. He is looking around at the other passengers waiting at the departure gate in Athens airport.

BBC News, August

Confidential U.N. report accuses Saudi Coalition of killing hundreds of Yemeni kids

Top U.N. advisor to recommend coalition should be put on the black list of countries that kill and maim children in war.

Foreign Policy, August 16th

Hungary PM Viktor Orban aims to militarize the school system

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is moving to introduce compulsory military training in schools. It is a grim reminder of the country’s totalitarian past that has raised fears of ‘idealogical indoctrination.’

Deutsche Welle, August 14th

Researchers find significantly higher rate of mental disorders among first responders

Results from Canada’s first national survey looking at operational stress injuries among first responders such as police, paramedics, firefighters and 911 operators suggest they are much more likely to develop a mental disorder than the general population.

CBC News, August 30th