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Saturday, March 9, 2013

International Womens Day 2013 - Canadian Women Falling Behind!

March 4-15, 2013 The international community meets for the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Member States representatives will discuss the advances they have made in the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. However, Canada has fallen drastically behind in advances over the past years through government cuts that affect women and their children more than the male population. Here are some government policies that have had a direct impact on the gender gap in Canada, and reforms The World YWCA is calling for that may return Canada to a more honourable position.

Government Cut Backs Target Women

The World Economic Forum Gender Gap analysis revealed that Canada had dropped from their 14th place in 2006 Seven rungs compared to 135 other countries in terms of gender equality. In fact, Canada has dropped from the world’s Top 20 countries. Canada is now 21st – behind the Philippines, Latvia, Cuba and Nicaragua.

What Government Changes Create Disadvantages for Women?

Some goverment changes that may have contributed to this huge increase in the gender gap include:

  • 2006, PM Stephen Harper’s first policy announcement was to cut Canada’s $5-billion national child-care plan, supported by all provincial governments, despite protests from child-care advocates and the provinces. 
  • 2006, Status of Women Canada (SWC) funding was temporarily cut by $5 million, forcing the closure of 12 of its 16 regional offices; changing the SWC Women’s Program mandate to exclude “gender equality and political justice;” redrafting funding criteria so that advocacy groups and women’s service providers, such as rape crisis centres, are ineligible for funding.
  • 2007, offices for the National Association of Women and the Law, a well-respected organization that had made valuable contributions to improving women’s human rights in Canada, were closed. Funding was also eliminated for other women’s organizations like the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW). 
  • 2009, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act allowed public sector employers to consider “market demand” when setting compensation levels – preserving the policy of paying men more than women for equal work 
  • 2010-2011, Status of Women Canada spent just over $10 million on violence against women – a bandaid on a sucking wound which affects about one in six Canadians and costs the economy nearly $7 billion dollars a year in missed work, medical, policing, and justice expenses. 

 World YWCA Calls For Change

 The World YWCA calls on governments around the world to move from policy to practice in the implementation of existing national, regional and global commitments related to ending violence against women and to protecting human rights.

Inadequate Income Supports Leave Women at Risk- Underhoused - Homeless

Women are Canada’s fastest growing homeless population. Having nowhere to call home can arise from complex causes, but poverty is always a factor. More than twice as many Canadian women as men now rely on Social Assistance. Welfare rates range between 20-70% below poverty levels , and rent allocations rarely meet rental rates leaving women struggling to cover essential needs like clothing, utilities and medical costs or taking the risk of not paying the rent and losing their housing.  When social assistance deducts 100% of a child support payment, no benefit reaches mothers and children.
Even having a job, does not ensure secure housing. Women account for 70% of part-time employees and two-thirds of Canadians working for minimum wage, below $10 an hour in most of Canada, which s far below the poverty line for an adult and two children. Lack of access to affordable child care adds another barrier for mothers raising children on their own. Is it any wonder that 22% of food banks reported an increase of 25% or greater between 2011 and 2012?

Homes For Women Campaign

The majority of women’s homelessness isn’t visible. Women couch surf with friends or relatives to avoid the street. Women — including teenage girls — trade sex with men for a place to crash for the night. Every year, 75,000-100,000 women and children leave their homes for the temporary safety of a shelter for abused women. Homes for Women is a campaign to prevent, reduce, and ultimately end the homelessness of women and girls in Canada.

EVERYONE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Individuals and governments, community groups and corporations, trade unions and local leaders can all take action that prevents and reduces women’s homelessness. A growing body of research has documented the impacts on women and identified strategies and policies for effective solutions.

PLEDGE TO END WOMEN’S HOMELESSNESS

Homes for Women pledges to work to end women’s and girls’ homelessness in Canada until we succeed. We invite individuals and organizations to join with us and take the pledge to end women’s homelessness. Because every woman has a right to a safe, secure home.
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