Locally, a group of socially conscious women designed and implemented a project called “Women Creating Change: Working Together for Economic Opportunity” (WCC). The purpose of the project, funded by the Status of Women, was to “determine and address barriers to women achieving economic security and stability.” The project’s research identified low wages, access to education, childcare, transportation and housing as barriers to economic and social well-being for local women.
With the research completed, the project leaders cast about for practical solutions to overcome some of the barriers that keep women in poverty. They are making strides in education and non-traditional areas of employment for women.
In consultation with local education and employment counsellors, the project identified a significant gap in opportunities for women who were exploring access to education as a means of getting out of poverty. With generous contributions from a number of organizations, WCC created the Stepping Out Bursary to help with funding gaps. Recipients of the bursary work with an employment counsellor to identify goals, learn about the range of services and funding available, and determine where a bursary would fill in important gaps. Jan Morton, director of the Greater Trails Skill centre and a member of the project team, describes the bursary as “a small resource that makes a big difference to the women who receive it.”
Morton speaks enthusiastically about the project’s Mining and Refining for Women (MR4W) program. Working closely with Teck Metals Trail Operation and Bock and Associates, experts in workplace training, MR4W has developed and is delivering an innovative mentorship program that supports the retention and advancement of women in non-traditional roles.
“The program was designed to support women but also with a view to improving opportunity for everyone,” said Morton. “Teck has put a lot of heart — and hard work — into this. The impact will be long term.”
Globally, there are numerous organizations at work to improve the lives of women and girls.
Plan International Canada is doing extensive work globally to promote the rights of millions of girls in developing countries. Education is a key component of the program. “When girls are educated, healthy and empowered, they can lift themselves and everyone around them out of poverty” (Plan International website).
Development and Peace (D&P), the official international development arm of the Canadian Catholic Church, is working with partner organizations in countries worldwide to secure the rights of women. D&P is highlighting the work of women in overcoming injustice in this year’s Share Lent campaign, Women at the Heart of Change.
Mike Bouchier, a Development and Peace parish representative, explains this year’s theme. “Women at the Heart of Change conjures up more than just the desire to reiterate the centrality of women as an engine of change. It is also to open people’s hearts during this season of Lent to the sufferings, injustices and obstacles faced, every single day, by millions of women and girls all over the world.”
Through its annual Share Lent campaigns, D&P seeks to raise awareness about injustice. It seeks to prod the conscience into a response, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, as someone once said of the Christian message. To this end, D&P has been hosting women from Haiti, Colombia and Syria who are agents of change. The women have been speaking in select communities across Canada about the status of women in their region. They talk about the work being done to overcome discrimination, abuse and poverty, as well as the important role that international aid plays in advancing the human rights of women and girls.
Across the globe, individuals, institutions and organizations are seeking ways to empower women. Even though gender analysis is the impetus for action, the changes wrought in the lives of women benefit everyone.
These collective and collaborative efforts illustrate the need and the desire for more equity and justice at home and abroad. “Fundamentally, we are still struggling to respect the dignity of the human person,” said Ann Godderis, from the WCC project.
From one small village to the next, women are at the heart of change, shaping a brighter future for all people.
Trail, B.C., resident Louise McEwan is a freelance writer, religion columnist and catechist. She has degrees in English and theology and is a former teacher. She blogs at www.faithcolouredglasses.blogspot.ca. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org