“Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex,” says a United Nations policy brief. “With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, even the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back.”
The Canadian Human Rights Commission has echoed this statement, saying: “These disproportionate impacts could have long-term and far reaching consequences. If we are to restore momentum in our efforts to bring about gender equality in Canada, social and economic recovery efforts must take a feminist approach.”
The Community Foundation North Okanagan (CFNO) is committed to supporting organizations at the forefront of advancing gender equality and has joined the national initiative, Communities for Gender Equality, led by Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) and supported by the Government of Canada.
Research shows that increasing women’s involvement leads to improved financials for communities, families and companies. When women are active in the community, they develop solutions that are aligned with the needs of the region, which impacts economic and social wellbeing and drives sustainability. With the tools, resources and confidence to advance their ideas, women serve as the much-needed change agents in our workplaces and communities.
Archway Society for Domestic Peace has been awarded a grant through the CFNO’s involvement with the national Communities for Gender Equality initiative to facilitate a project aimed at providing workplaces with practical tools and programs to create inclusive work cultures that reduce systemic bias.
The project is led by Tanya Wick and Michelle Mercer, who both bring impressive career experience from their positions with Tolko Industries. As advocates of change, Wick and Mercer have disrupted the forestry industry by challenging the status quo, bringing in new ideas, and clearing the path for others to succeed.
“I want to ensure leaders understand the value proposition for diversity and inclusion in their companies and communities,” Wick explains. “I know what it feels like to have no one stand up for you, and I want to make it easier for women and other marginalized groups in the industry.”
The program will be offered free of charge to any business or non-profit that wants to sign up. The sessions will supportively help people question their own assumptions, identify unknown biases and break down how gender inequality operates in the working world to disadvantage women.
The project helps our community’s most vulnerable – women in the sex trade and those most at risk of being recruited into the sex trade. HOPE’s outreach program cares for women and girls who are homeless, marginalized, exploited, addicted and abused. These women often have no support system, no safe place, and they live in fear of abuse daily. The COVID-19 pandemic has also increased the risk of dying of an overdose.
“The number of girls and women being trafficked into the sex trade has grown in the past few years, and we are finding that women are being sent from other cities, as the Okanagan has been increasingly recognized as a place that the sex trade is even more lucrative than in cities like Vancouver and Calgary. It is important that we take a stand against this, and that we offer women and girls the help they need to get out of the lifestyle,” says Angie Lohr, Executive Director of Hope Outreach Society.
HOPE Okanagan works to keep women and girls safe, offer them supplies, knowledge and resources to stay safe, and eventually get off the street and into safe housing and programs that can help them.
For more information about the Communities for Gender Equality Initiative please visit cfno.org/equalityfund