By Bushra Zafar, Placement Student at WomanACT
As part of my placement, I have the opportunity to attend Shelter and Support Services Committee meetings. At one of the meetings, a number of systemic issues were raised. The first issue was VAW shelters not being able to accommodate pets, leading to women staying in their abusive relationships out of fear for the lives of their furry family members. This is a classic example of one of the many reasons women choose to stay with their abusive partners.
Another issue raised was regarding women who need to find housing but are caught in a loop between landlords and Ontario Works. Ontario Works will not release the rent amount until they see proof of stable housing and landlords will not move forward until they see proof of income. This is yet another systemic issue that adds to the oppression women face in addition to the trauma of the abuse. The intersectionality and multiplicity of oppression is so ingrained in the system that it seems like a deep pit. More than the personal dilemma of whether to leave an abusive partner or not, it’s the system that creates ongoing barriers for women and does not leave them with many options. There needs to be a holistic and collaborative approach at a systemic level to address this issue.
There is a dire need for more VAW shelters as the current ones are overflowing and women are sometimes placed in homeless shelters. This is an even more traumatizing experience for them. All these aspects have to be taken into account when addressing the issue of violence against women. There is a need for ongoing advocacy in order to get funding for projects. These systemic issues create a barrier for agencies and front line workers to help their clients in the best way. They are torn between the desire to help their client and being held back by the systems, policies and laws.
This is an ongoing fight for women’s rights that has been going on for years and still continues. Attending these meetings and getting an awareness about the issues has been an eye-opening experience for me and it makes my goal to work with and empower survivors of abuse, stronger every day.
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