By Farah Mustafa
Women and communities of gender diverse people have complicated relationships with social media. We always have. Social media is often a tool enabling violence online – used by perpetrators to control victims directly on social media or by controlling how and when social media and technology is accessed.
But sometimes social media can be empowering – bringing likeminded and similarly-experienced communities together. Communities can share resources, promote and celebrate each other’s successes, and bring to light the issues that matter most. During the time of COVID-19, one of many issues that is top of mind for me is the increase of gender based violence, as women and gender diverse people are trapped with abusers in violent spaces; as individuals cannot seek out the resources in person that they typically would; as communities cannot physically be in each other’s comfort. But, there is hope.
As the world has grown exponentially more reliant on technology and digital spaces through the last few months of this pandemic, survivors have found ways to support each other through COVID-19. While technology is not accessible to all, and that is a conversation that requires great exploration and understanding, I am grateful for the way communities of survivors have resiliently leveraged technology to be in our favour during COVID-19.
This includes the increase of accessible physical wellbeing resources that give folks free tools to take care of their physical health within their own comfort, away from spaces that may be uncomfortable or triggering. Examples include Zoom exercise classes, meditation and YouTube channels. Secondly, countless women’s organizations have pivoted their programming to be entirely online, providing counselling and workshops virtually. Survivors are also creating their own community care circles – kind of like pseudo group therapy that replaces the in person meet-ups a lot of us had – for their own networks; some might be created on Facebook and be more informal, while others feature guest speakers in official Zoom events. A popular hand signal created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation (https://bit.ly/2YWFGnN) has allowed people facing violence to let others know to check up on them. These are just some of the examples that I’ve seen.
As the months go by, one thing has been clear for me, and that is that survivors of violence have always been resilient and will continue to be that way – pandemic, or no pandemic.
Over the last several decades, an increase in the number of dual-earner and single families across Canada has steadily risen the demand for affordable, quality childcare. Close to half (46%) of the Canadian population relies on childcare, and this number is expected to increase as more parents become dual-earners. Significantly, the availability of open, affordable child care options has not grown parallel to its demand. Across Canada, “776,000 children live in communities where at least three children are competing for one spot in a licensed daycare” (Macdonald, Friendly, 2019). Without access to child care, parents are unable to return to work and in many instances, women exit the workforce to care for children.
Canadians are in desperate need of a publicly funded and managed child care strategy that is affordable, high quality, accessible and inclusive. We think you should support the Affordable Child Care for All Plan:
As illustrated above, nine provinces and all territories across Canada are failing to meet the average need of childcare. Without federal intervention, many families will not have access to licensed establishments and the unmet childcare need of 24.51% will continue to grow wider if left unaddressed.
Across Canada, only one province, Quebec has enough space to accommodate 50% of young people aged 0-12, surpassing the national average. Affordable, high quality childcare benefits everyone.
Creating a Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office for Toronto - Deputation to the Executive Committee
Deputation to the Executive Committee
Re: 2018.MM44.14, Creating an Intersectional Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office for Toronto
September 18th 2019
In support of creating a Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office for Toronto
Good Morning. My name is Harmy Mendoza and I am the Executive Director of the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto (WomanACT). Our mission is to eradicate violence against women and advance gender equity through coordination, education, research and policy. We convene and mobilize communities across Toronto to drive system change for women and we have been doing this for 28 years.
I would like to dedicate my deputation to the 148 women and girls killed in 2018 across Canada, 21 of whom lived in Toronto. To the 60 women and girls killed in 2019 across Canada. To Tharshika Jeganathan, killed by her former husband on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 in Toronto.
I am here this morning to emphasize and speak to the need for a Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office for Toronto.
While we commend the City of Toronto for undertaking initiatives such as the gender equity tool or applying a gender analysis to strategies such as the Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy and HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan, we know there is more to do. We know that in order to reduce inequities faced by women, girls, trans and non-binary people across the city, we need to apply an intersectional gender framework and gender-responsive budgeting process to all policy and programmatic areas.
Gender inequities still persist in Toronto. Women, girls, trans and non-binary individuals face higher rates of violence and continue to be murdered by their partners and ex-partners at a substantially higher rate than men. Women are more likely to be unemployed, in precarious work and still make less money than their male counterparts. And yet, they make up 52% of the population. The experience of being a Torontonian is indeed gendered and these experiences are further impacted by race, immigration status, disability, sexuality and socio-economic status.
When we speak to women experiencing violence in Toronto, we hear what these inequalities translate into. Women are unable to live free from violence because of a lack of access to money and housing. Women tell us that they face discrimination by landlords because they are on social assistance or are lone parents, even though we know that 84% of lone-parent families in Toronto are led by women. Women report that they struggle to access employment, childcare, and public services because of a lack of access to transit, even though we know that 59% of public transit users in Toronto are women. Women also tell us that there is still an expectation that they must leave the home and have their lives disrupted when they are experiencing abuse, rather than the perpetrator leaving. This is an expectation that is still reinforced by policy, programs and practices across the city. These experiences are just a few reasons why we need strategies and budgets that take into account the needs of women as well as work to close the gender gap.
Despite a long history of women’s policy advocacy, the idea that women’s interests should be incorporated into the policy process is still relatively new. From our experience, integrating an intersectional gender analysis to policies, services and programs requires dedicated time, resources, capacity building, constant community engagement as well as a willingness for change. We believe that a city-wide Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office would meet these needs.
We would also like to emphasize that this work does not have to happen alone. Women’s advocates and organizations across the city have a long history of this work and we know that our communities are keen and waiting to share their expertise, tools and strategies for achieving gender-responsive policy and budgets. We also encourage the Gender Equality Office to closely engage the community in driving priorities.
WomanACT regularly engages community agencies and women across the city to identify needs and develop policy, program and practice solutions. We find that when communities are engaged in the decision-making that affects their everyday lives, they feel more valued in their community and are more motivated to build safe, cohesive and healthy communities.
In conclusion, the stakes are incredibly high and this isn’t rocket science. We have solutions to closing the gender gap and this is one of them. We hope that the City of Toronto will demonstrate its commitment to women’s safety and gender equality.
Incoming university and college students across Canada are excited to begin a new chapter. Many parents will lecture their children on maintaining healthy study habits, keeping their dorm rooms clean and organized, and practicing good budgeting skills. Conversations some parents may not have with these young adults are about the increased risk of sexual violence across higher education campuses.
The highest rates of sexual violence on campus occur within the first year of higher education, and the most incidents occur within the first few weeks on campus (Canadian Federation of Students, 2015). The widespread availability of technology and social media has influenced sexual and health education. Subsequently, much of this media has spread misinformation on appropriate behaviours pertaining to healthy relationships and sexual activities. This missed opportunity to educate young minds on safety in dating contributes to the rise in unhealthy relationships and dating across higher education campuses in Canada. Without parental intervention, many young people are entering this uncertain period in their lives lacking clear direction, and misinformed practices on navigating safe and healthy relationships.
Recently, the Government of Ontario has released their revised version of the sexual and healthy education curriculum. The curriculum remains largely unaltered from the release in 2015, which includes much needed topics on: consent, same-sex relationships, gender, sexuality and healthy relationships. With comprehensive sexual health education curriculum, schools are well placed to facilitate conversations among young people about gender, sexuality and choice. Education is the first step in reducing sexual violence. Ontarians must learn what actions are appropriate, and which actions are respectful towards intimate partners. With education, we will be able to reduce the cycle and pervasiveness of sexual violence and rape culture.
Canadian Federation of Students. (Spring 2015). Sexual Violence on Campus. Canadian Federation of Students. Retrieved from: https://cfs-fcee.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Sexual-Violence-on-Campus.pdf
The 2019 federal election will soon be upon us and we want all federal party leaders to tell Canadians what their positions are on women’s and gender equality issues. WomanACT is proud to be a part of the Up For Debate 2019 alliance.
Up for Debate 2019 is a campaign coordinated by an alliance of women’s rights and gender equality advocates from across Canada.
The last Federal Leaders’ Debate on women’s issues in Canada was on August 14, 1984 – 35 years ago now. And yet, women, trans, non-binary, and two-spirit people in Canada still face many of the same barriers today, including:
During the 2019 federal election, the Up For Debate Alliance is calling on all federal party leaders to commit to a national televised debate to share their priorities on women’s rights and gender equality. Jagmeet Singh of the NDP and Elizabeth May of the Green Party have pledged to participate, but we’re still waiting on a commitment from the Liberals, the Conservatives, and the Bloc Québécois. When it comes time to elect our next government in 2019, we want party leaders to explain how they plan to build a more equitable Canada for all.
For information on the campaign or to sign our petition, please visit https://ywcacanada.ca/upfordebate/
By Serena Lisus-Reiter
Finding adequate and affordable housing in Toronto has become increasingly difficult. For women and children looking to leave situations of domestic violence, finding safe and affordable housing can be one of the biggest barriers standing in their way of independence and safety. As a member of the External Advisory Committee for Toronto’s new Housing Plan, HousingTO 2020 – 2030 Action Plan, WomanACT recognizes the housing crisis in Toronto as posing unique challenges to women, especially those made vulnerable by their survivor, newcomer, racialized, and/or LGBTQ2S identities.
Over the last couple of months, WomanACT looked to our community to find answers to the question of precarious housing in Toronto. We talked with women with lived experience of housing instability and/or violence and the service providers who engage with them. Consulting with communities directed impacted by violence, poverty and/or housing insecurity is key to ensuring Toronto’s new ten year housing plan adopts a gender and trauma informed approach. Ultimately, we want to find out what can be done to help marginalized women and women experiencing violence access safe, adequate, and affordable housing that is imperative to their ongoing safety and independence.
In our consultations, we asked what our community saw as challenges in finding housing in Toronto, what they would like to see prioritized, and any innovative ideas for the City to address these issues. Many expressed the lack of affordable private market units available, the long waitlist (of over 100 000 people) for social housing, and discrimination by landlords as some of their major concerns. They wanted to see the city prioritize private market rent control, the creation of more affordable housing units, the addition of more shelter beds, and more regulation to ensure fair treatment by landlords. Finally, our community shared its ideas for innovation with us as well, including talk about converting old parking lots into housing units, developing and funding self-contained family units for families fleeing violence instead of shelters, and even finding ways to support women to stay in their own homes after situations of domestic violence.
In our work with the City of Toronto’s 2020 – 2030 Housing Plan, we hope to address these unique barriers and close some of the gaps that stand between women and safe housing. WomanACT remains committed to the safety and independence of women experiencing violence, and through consulting our community, we continue to honour this commitment.
WomanACT is proud to partner with Uber as part of Uber’s Driving Change initiative, a global commitment to support and partner with leading sexual assault and domestic violence organizations around the world.
In 2017, Uber pledged $5 million to support sexual violence prevention programs, starting in the United States. This week, the initiative has expanded to include Canadian partners.
WomanACT is committed to working across sectors to create systemic change. We believe that raising awareness and engaging in national conversations on violence against women is key to getting at the root of the issue. Global movements such as “Me Too” and “TimesUp” have helped spark a global conversation on violence against women and girls, and shown just how often it is normalized. We want to build on this conversation by engaging new audiences and we see this partnership as an opportunity to reach these new audiences and raise awareness on gender-based violence.
Working alongside national and local partners, Uber’s Driving Change initiative will develop educational materials for drivers and riders and support community prevention programs.
Together, we have the opportunity to reach millions of driver-partners and riders across Canada to raise awareness, prevent gender-based violence, and promote safety within the rideshare community and throughout Canada.
“Sexual assault and gender-based violence don’t belong anywhere in our communities. Helping keep people safe is a huge responsibility and one we do not take lightly. We are committed to learning from experts like WomanACT on how we can do more to prevent violence against women and to help keep people safe” - Morva Rohani, Public Policy, Uber Canada
“WomanACT is thrilled to work with Uber – bringing together community expertise with Uber’s scope and visibility will help community partners engage new audiences to raise awareness and prevent sexual and domestic violence.” – Harmy Mendoza, Executive Director, WomanACT
WomanACT's continuous growth and successful journey could not be possible without the oversight, direction and support we receive from our Board of Directors. We are in search of leaders and emerging leaders that want to contribute to our ultimate goal to eliminate violence against women.
Interested in applying? See attached flyer for detailed information!
Are you committed to progressing women's rights? Are you a highly motivated individual with experience in project development, policy and communications? Then we want to hear from you!
Position: Project Coordinator, Full Time, One Year Contract
Closing Date: April 19th,2019
WomanACT is looking for a dynamic and highly motivated Project Coordinator to help develop and enhance our gender equality projects, research and policy.
The Project Coordinator will play a key role in the implementation of the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) Project. The project will develop, test and evaluate the MARAC model, an internationally recognized approach to reducing high risk domestic violence through multi-agency risk assessment and safety planning, in two communities in Ontario. The Project Coordinator will be responsible for supporting the development, administration, implementation and evaluation of the MARAC project and other projects as identified.
The Project Coordinator will also work closely with the WomanACT team to further advance our research and policy work across our current priority areas: gender-based violence, economic security and housing. The Project Coordinator will provide technical and coordination support including conducting community-based research, policy analysis and development, developing communications and fostering community engagement.
Please submit your cover letter, resume and expected salary to the attention of Lieran Docherty, Project Manager, email@example.com
Download Job Description here