02 Jul Why We Need Women United
By: Dale Biddell, United Way Simcoe Muskoka CEO
Women care about other girls and women. Starting the Women’s Leadership Council at United Way Simcoe Muskoka made it clear: women don’t look away from the issues that make us uncomfortable – our inner voices tell us to listen.
Homelessness, hunger, addiction, opioids, family violence, economic insecurity, sex-trafficking and mental health. We understand how any one of these can make a woman feel fear, shame, isolated, insecure and powerless. Each of us has felt a similar emotion at one time in our lives. And if we can lift one another up–intention followed by action—that is power for good.
Now, as we transition to Women United, there will be even more of us to make that happen.
Everywhere in the world, women shoulder a disproportionate burden of care and domestic work, with little recognition or compensation. This renders many less likely to work for income, escape poverty, accumulate savings, get an education, participate in politics, or have time for rest and self-care.
Closer to home there are agencies involved with women and children at risk that are working to provide multiple supports. In the case of girls, teens and young women who are victims of human trafficking, agencies are seeking ways to work together to provide wrap around care.
Other agencies provide mental health supports, youth shelter, mentoring, education and training, job preparedness, life skills and poverty intervention. Both local and national women’s organizations are uniquely positioned to understand the needs of those they serve and support. They are also among the smallest and most underfunded organizations in the non-profit sector in Canada. Yet, the research is clear: they are the single most effective means to building better public policy and better lives for women. (Canadian Centre for Policy Initiatives)
As we transition to Women United, our goal is to expand upon what we have achieved in the first three years of the Women’s Leadership Council. Starting from nothing, we have funded five programs across our region, sponsored events, hosted speakers at three leadership lunches where collectively more than 150 women have learned about supporting women’s innovation, life living on the street and human trafficking straight down the 400 Highway.
The more women who become united in collective determination and support for girls and women who are falling behind means our region will not be subject to inclusion in The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2017 – The Gender Gap in Canada’s 25 Biggest Cities Barrie ranks #23, two from the bottom.
Our partners at United Way Greater Toronto, along with PEPSO and McMaster University, conducted a study called Getting Left Behind that examines the differences in sex, race and education, even in an improving labour market. The report demonstrates that women, especially those that are racialized and undereducated, are still struggling.
#MeToo, Times Up and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls are a few of the many examples where data, evidence and social justice intersect through the voices and experiences of women around the globe. Throughout Simcoe and Muskoka, the organizations that serve girls and women are responding, despite the increasing complexity of these issues.
This year, as we transition to Women United, we are investing $45,000 in three programs meant to help women and girls across our communities. These three programs are:
- YWCA Muskoka’s Getting Ahead in a Just Getting’ By World is a program that provides support and helps develop skills to assist girls and women in Bracebridge move out of the cycle of poverty.
- Dress for Success Orillia and Barrie’s Professional Women’s Group Mentoring Program helps participants retain employment and develop professional skills so they can work towards economic independence. The program is located in Orillia and Barrie, but the services are available across Simcoe Muskoka.
- The John Howard Society of Simcoe Muskoka’s Taking Charge of Our Lives is an empowerment program for women and girls that focuses on life skills and strategies to help them overcome the barriers between them and their potential. Its groups operate in Collingwood, Orillia and Barrie.
We can be a powerful voice for social change and one that will grow as we look at the stunning increase in women’s philanthropy. Across North America, since 1985 donations claimed by women have increased from $1.1B to $3.5B.
That’s a movement we can be a part of.
If you are interested in making positive change for women and girls in Simcoe Muskoka, click here to learn more about Women United. To stay up to date on Women United and the rest of our work in our communities, subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.