Women's Charity Audit: Victoria Status of Women Action GroupWednesday, July 28 2010
While SWAG works toward long term goals to end poverty like advocating the implementation of a universal Guaranteed Livable Income, it is a reality that more and more women are forced to rely on charities to survive.
However, some services set up to address hunger and homelessness are not adressing the unique needs of women and their children.
Several instances of harassment were reported to our office by women forced to seek services. In 2003 we applied for funds to address this problem from the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW). In December we got the news that we were one of four projects in Canada to receive a small research grant. This project will document women's experiences at local charities in order to gather recommendations and encourage charities to address women's concerns.
While there are two charities which already have some women-friendly policies, many women who have spoken with SWAG strongly state that they do not want to go to charities, but are forced to out of hunger and the threat of homelessness. Women interviewed express that going to a charity is a problem because of stigmatization and loss of control and that the environment can be intimidating for women and children (and even some men) who are already at their most vulnerable.
UVIC practicum student, Melissa Klingler, who has been interviewing women for her practicum, reports that some women choose to go hungry at times rather than to eat the low nutritional food offered at charities because it can worsen their health problems even though it fills empty stomachs.
Thousands of dollars are involved in charities, there needs to be more accountability to guarantee that the needs of women and children are being adequately addressed. We aim to create a best practices handbook which will be distributed to local charities to encourage them to make recommended changes while at the same time SWAG will continue to push for long term systemic change.
Women who have used charities, or have ideas or views on charities, are encouraged to participate in the survey and the focus groups to work on recommendations.
This is a local Victoria initiative, but if women elsewhere in Canada or BC are moved to write about their experiences of charity, we will try to include them in our final booklet.
1st Focus group in Victoria, Wed. Mar. 17th - 1 pm. Snacks, bus fare provided. Some child care available if you pre-register by Mar. 15. Call 250-383-7322.