Broadening the Definition of Security

06/23/2010 01:59 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

For Rosaline Presence, security isn't about $1.2 billion. It's about $10.

In South Africa, food security takes precedent over riot police and tear gas for 1.5 million people. Presence, who is in town for the G20 Summit, works with the Women on Farms Project to promote land use based on collectively and equality. Instead she finds women struggling to feed families of 10 on wages of $10 while working to grow food themselves.

"How can you justify people going hungry when they are the ones producing food?" she says.

Security is the talk of the G20 Summit. If you're anywhere in downtown Toronto, it's absolutely impossible to ignore. Stand on any street corner in the downtown core and you'll see groupings of policemen on bikes as unmarked vans filled with RCMP officers cruise past.

"Our bottom line is we want to have a safe event for everyone," said Wendy Drummond, a spokesperson for the Integrated Security Unit. We spoke with her in the pouring rain outside of the Toronto Police Headquarters as members of the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and Peel Regional Police stood alongside. "Our whole goal here is to ensure everyone is safe and to continue to work with all protest groups to ensure their safety."

We often narrow our definition of security to cruisers that patrol our community, metal detectors in our airports, even contingents of security officers in town for the G20 Summit. But, take away our homes, our financial well-beings, our food, our water -- suddenly the security of our being takes on a new meaning.

As we went on our day, we saw the definition broaden a little -- in the most unlikely of places. At AAA Army Surplus, we spoke the store's owner, Ike Geist. For 47 years, he's been selling gas masks, helmets and Russian aviator goggles from the 1940s. In his small store, he talked about finding security through peace.

"I don't like to see them violent. I'm against that," he said, putting down a helmet. "I'd like them to stay away from violence."

We couldn't agree with him more. We just wondered if this broader definition could extend to include Presence.

Here we are spending $1.2 billion on 48 hours of conversation. The security is supposed to keep leaders safe as they discuss commitments meant to better the world. It's also meant to ensure the safety of protesters looking to draw attention to the G8 and G20's history of breaking those commitments.

All the while, who's securing Presence?

"What I also want the world to see is that how many women in South Africa have to stay up every night and still have to go out and work. But yet, they are not safe," she says. "Women are getting raped. Not only do they have to walk in unsafe spaces, but also getting raped of their dignity."

When we met up with Stephen Lewis, the former U.N. Special Envoy to HIV/AIDS in Africa, he was not shy in showing his disapproval for Presence's insecurity. We asked his to address the G20 Summit. He said he would rather not.

"The G8 leaders don't strike me as people who have given leadership to the international community... Obama flatlined additional funding sources," he said. "Stop betraying the continent of Africa."

That betrayal might be the biggest breach of security. It's not unmarked vans filled with officers that make us feel safe. Instead, it's that broader definition. These officers might guarantee security for a weekend. They can't extend security to the world.