Martha's Monthly for March, 2005: Where is the word 'Women' in Alberta's Policies?Wednesday, December 14 2011
Martha has been following the UN conference on the Advancement of Women called Beijing +10 that started Feb 28 and continues until March 11. This UN conference is reviewing the progress of the Beijing conference of 1995 and the promises made for women’s equality. It got Martha thinking about how her own province has been doing on equality for women and particularly on the issue of violence against women. Well, Martha found out more than she bargained for when she went looking for some simple answers to how much her government spends on women’s shelters. The Auditor General noted that in 2003-2004 the Ministry of Children’s Services spent $17 Million on “Prevention of Family Violence.” Martha assumed that this is where funding for shelters falls, but this was not made clear. (Auditor General report (see page 88)) Interestingly, that amount of money is quite similar to the amount pledged by Alberta Lottery fund for “Racing Industry Renewal Initiative.” This effort to “re-brand” horse racing got $17,900,000 in the 2001-2002 fiscal year. (see page 91 of the Gaming Annual Report)
There seems to be a little “re-branding” going on in the Government of Alberta as well. Our government has re-branded women’s issues and violence against women into concern for children. We have no Ministry for the Status of Women, as there is in most provinces. If you dig, you can find “women’s issues” under Alberta Community Development but don’t get too excited, “women’s issues” stop at the Person’s Day Scholarships. Martha went digging deeper and found the Finding Solutions Together report from the Alberta Roundtable on Family Violence and Bullying (held in May 2004). The word “Women” is all but eradicated from the entire Family Violence report. In fact, the word “women” appears only four times in that 28-page report.
Why is gender obscured as a basis for analysis in the Government of Alberta document ? What happens when a government stops recognizing women as victims of domestic assault and just sees “Children and Families” as the victims? When we overlook the gender of more than 85% of the victims of assault then we overlook many important needs. In Alberta it has meant that our government has offered woefully poor resources to women’s shelters, transition homes for women, and financial resources available to women leaving abusive relationships.