Vancouver Women's Movement

Federal funding aims to help women’s movement in Metro Vancouver

Jessica Kerr / March 28, 2019

Fourteen women’s organizations in the Lower Mainland are among more than 250 from across Canada receiving a financial shot in the arm from Ottawa.

Back on March 8, which is International Women’s Day, Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef announced that more than 250 women’s organizations across the country would receive funding through the ministry’s Capacity-building Fund, with the aim of helping organizations that advance the women’s movement and gender equity in Canada.

On Thursday morning Monsef was in Vancouver to announce that 14 Lower Mainland-based organizations are among those receiving money.

“With stable and flexible funding across the Greater Vancouver area, we are helping organizations scale up so they can grow and endure, because we know that investing in their work is the most effective way to advance gender equality,” Monsef said. “By supporting a movement that has achieved amazing results, we are growing the middle class, strengthening families and communities, and creating lasting change that benefits everyone.”

The 14 locally-based organizations include: Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C., Ending Violence Association of B.C., Ending Violence Association of Canada, Justice for Girls Outreach Society, Métis Provincial Council of British Columbia, Minerva Foundation for B.C. Women, North Shore Women’s Centre Society, Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, ShEvalesco Female Empowerment Association, Supporting Women’s Alternative Network Society, West Coast LEAF Association, WISH Drop-in Centre Society, Women Transforming Cities International Society and the YWCA of Vancouver.

“Funding like this comes around almost never,” said Mebrat Beyene, executive director at the WISH Drop-In Centre Society, which supports women who are in street-based sex work in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. “We’re very fortunate and grateful for the funding.”

WISH has been around in various forms and locations since the mid-1980s. The current drop-in centre opened in September 2008 and serves an average of 6,500 meals a month, as well as offering showers, clothing and personal care items, as well as a long list of other services. On any given night there can be up to 30 women inside the space.

“We’re doing this work in the middle of an opioid crisis, in the middle of the worst homelessness and poverty crisis that this city has seen in decades and so the focus really is on meeting the immediate health and safety needs of women,” Beyene said. “But an organization like WISH, the purpose of it is not to just continue providing triage services forever and ever, it’s really about helping women to achieve the goals that they have set for themselves and for creating opportunities for women to make safe and healthy and positive choices.”

Beyene added that the funding will help ease the “franticness of just keeping the doors open” and help the organization work with women on goals they’ve set for themselves.

Ellen Woodsworth, co-chairperson of the Women Transforming Cities International Society, said the funding will make an “enormous difference” in the society’s work.

“Women Transforming Cities International Society works to transform cities into spaces that work for everyone,” said Woodsworth, a former two-term COPE councillor. “We empower self-identified women and girls, in all their diversity, through community engagement, inclusive policies and equitable representation to create women-friendly cities… We are excited to be able to improve and grow our capacity to support women and girls.”

Deb Bryant, CEO of the YWCA Metro Vancouver, said the funding will help the organization “continue to touch lives and build better futures for women and their families through advocacy and services that foster economic independence, wellness and equal opportunities.”

Monsef said the new federal budget, which was tabled in the House of Commons March 18, included $160 million over five years for investing in women’s organizations.

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