Women’s Centers Connect is comprised of nine Women’s Centers across Nova Scotia. During the pandemic we heard from women about the issues that they faced every day. We provide both direct services and work towards social change. Inequality is the pandemic within the pandemic and it requires all of us to work together towards equality and equity. After August 17th, when the work begins we would like to know how you will work with us towards a more equal and equitable province. Without all of us there is no recovery.
As we review the three-party platforms, we seek further clarity about how you would proceed if elected in the following areas critical to our recovery.
Provincial Child Care Plan
The COVID-19 pandemic, has highlighted the tremendous importance of care work for healthy individuals, societies, and economies. It has also highlighted the gendered nature of such work. With the closure of schools and daycares, the demand for unpaid childcare provision has fallen disproportionately on women, in part due to existing social norms.
Prior to the pandemic, women in Canada spent on average 1.5 hours more on unpaid domestic and care-work daily than men. This gap has set the stage for the current situation. While men have almost returned to a pre-pandemic rate of employment, women have not. Without access to childcare, many mothers will not have the option to go back to work especially if their jobs cannot be carried out remotely. In fact, women of colour are twice as likely not to return to paid work than their white counterparts because of increased childcare responsibilities. This will slow Nova Scotia’s economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic, as well as rollback the progress women have made in the workforce.
The solution to ensuring a generation of women are not left behind is to establish a national childcare plan with the goal of implementing universal childcare. The first steps have been taken with federal funding.
If you are elected how will you proceed with the roll out of this crucial resource? What additional steps will you take to ensure women who are included in our economic recovery?
Gender Based Violence
The Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women has identified ensuring women and girls are safe from gender-based violence as a critical priority. Women and other gender diverse people in particular have experienced higher levels of harm and threat as a result of gender-based violence during the pandemic. The economic stress, public health risks lead to less people reporting. I hope you agree with anti-violence experts across the country that gender-based violence in Canada is both a human rights and public health crisis of pandemic proportions. We have been working with advocates and experts across the country on the National Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence, but we need provincial collaboration and leadership to ensure its success.
What commitments would your party make to addressing gender inequities and eliminating gender-based violence?
Non-Profits, our Community Social Safety Nets:
In a year of uncertainty, our teams have adapted and supported women and girls providing support counselling, information and system navigation during these unprecedented times. We have received some emergency funding from Department of Community Services to help us bridge the gap in cost of living and increasing expenses. It has been more than five years since women’s centres in Nova Scotia have received an increase to our CORE operational funding. We had requested at the time that our 2015 agreement was negotiated that the province consider our need to increase our capacity with additional funding to allow each Centre to build capacity to meet the needs of our communities in the form of either hiring an additional support worker, a therapist to work specifically with women, or expanding our outreach services as examples. Investing in women’s centres is an investment into feminist recovery.
The recent Provincial budget presented no additional funds for gendered-impact work with the exception of sexual violence trauma therapy funds, for which we’ve received no information about how they will be rolled out. Our Centres have advocated for community-based access to therapists to meet the needs of our community and would welcome opportunities to house these specialists. Their work with us would be community based and enrich the resources already offered by our Centres that not only continue to receive referrals related to Mental Health needs, but have seen an increase in those referrals since the rollout of an ineffective and inappropriate tired intake system at Mental Health & Addictions.
Continuing to operate with unsustainable funding is having a significant impact on our ability to do the important work that we do. Our work is an essential prevention measure and early intervention for women and families in crisis. It is exceedingly difficult to prevent turnover when we cannot provide a cost-of-living increase to our staff let alone provide comparative wages to our sister organizations like transition houses. More importantly, a regular and dependable cost of living raise demonstrates respect and value to our staff who go above and beyond every day. As you can imagine, it is very demoralizing for frontline staff to not feel valued when they provide crucial goods and compassionate care to the hundreds of women who call in crisis every day. Without our experienced staff there are no Women’s Centres.
What will you do to support our vital work if you are elected? Can we count on your support in securing an increase in our core funding?
We thank you for your attention to these important issues and for your work to ensure that we build a province where everyone in our communities is able to participate equally and to live with wellbeing and safety. We look forward to hearing your responses.
Your Provincial Association of Women’s Resource Centres