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Kate Hawkins: “The pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on vulnerable women and girls throughout Canada”

Although we live in an era that has evolved immensely since the days of our grandmothers and even mothers, we are far from achieving justice in terms of gender equality. With many gaps to fill and many barriers to break, there are still circumstances where women are considered inferior and ultimately second options.

Canada has shown an effort to fight this problem, but the fact is that it still happens – several studies prove this point, showing us very discriminatory results.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) is an organization that seeks to fight for women’s rights and gender equality. They fund programs across the country, addressing four urgent issues: gender-based violence, economic security, girls’ empowerment and inclusive leadership.

We had the opportunity to speak with Kate Hawkins, responsible for managing, public relations and online engagement for the foundation. She helped us better understand the CWF’s work as well as their perspective on women in the workforce—especially now, throughout the pandemic.

Milénio Stadium:  Despite progress, there is still a clear gender gap in the world and particularly in Canadian society. This is one of the reasons why associations like the Canadian Women’s Foundation exist. What kind of work do you do in this area?  

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Kate Hawkins, responsible for managing, public relations and online engagement for the The Canadian Women’s Foundation. DR.

Kate Hawkins: The Canadian Women’s Foundation is Canada’s public foundation for women and girls. We’re committed to advocating for gender equality in Canada by lifting women and girls out of violence, out of poverty, and into confidence and leadership. We do this by funding programs that focus on addressing the root causes of the most critical issues and helping women, girls, two-spirit, trans, and non-binary peoples who face the greatest barriers nation-wide. You can read more about the programs we fund on our website.  (canadianwomen.org)

MS:  Is it common in your association to have complaints from women who feel discriminated against in their professional environment simply because they are women? Does the fact that men occupy most of the high-level decision-making positions, contribute to the barriers encountered by women throughout their careers? 

KH: The Canadian Women’s Foundation funds and supports organizations that help women and girls, but we do not provide services directly. All the same, we know that women in Canada often face discrimination at work and now, due to the pandemic, things are only getting worse. Women are being pushed out of the workforce at historic rates, especially racialized women and those in precarious work. The pay gap persists, and has always been worse for Indigenous women, black women, newcomer women, and women with disabilities. The burden of unpaid child and elder care work, already disproportionately falling to women, has only grown. 

MS:  The studies are done and the numbers are clear. What is lacking for effective gender equality in Canadian society?  

KH: There is still so much work to be done when it comes to achieving gender equality in Canada. We have to invest heavily in long-term, community-based solutions to prevent and intervene in situations of gender-based violence. We need pay equity, better education and work opportunities, and equitable, safe workplaces. We need affordable, accessible, and universal childcare. And we need decision-makers who reflect the diversity of Canada. Tackling these large, systemic issues can feel overwhelming at times. But a gender equal Canada is possible.  

MS: How does your association help women during these complex pandemic times?  

KH: The COVID-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on vulnerable women and girls throughout Canada. Programs and services are seeing a surge in gender-based violence and economic problems, and they’re struggling to meet women’s needs. We’re doing what we can through our Tireless Together COVID-19 response fund, which supports service providers to help them: 

  • Deliver critical services to women and girls through our annual and multi-year grants program; 
  • Deal with staffing and volunteer shortfalls;   
  • Invest in PPE like gloves, masks, and cleaning supplies;  
  • Invest in wraparound supports for their clients, like childcare, food, and transit;   
  • And begin the work of digitizing their services.

We’re also launching a new program, Safer + Stronger Grants, which will address the rising risks of gender-based violence in the pandemic and ensures critical services continue to reach survivors and their dependents. Applications for this grant stream will be accepted on a continuous basis until Feb. 15. 

Catarina Balça/MS

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Crédito: David Ganhão/MS

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