The ‘Bringing in Women’s Voices’ project, initiated by Ontario Campaign 2000 and the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) has the goal of ensuring that the voices of low-income women (especially lone mothers) are heard in the public discussion of economic security issues that affect their daily lives, including the Social Assistance Review. With the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the project has partnered with 11 community organizations across the province and held workshops in Toronto (central), Region of Peel, Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Bracebridge, Ottawa, Pembroke, Etobicoke and Scarborough.
More than 200 women, most raising children on their own, participated and shared experiences and concerns about government policies that affect their lives. They also contributed ideas and suggestions for helping women, in particular sole support parents, escape poverty. Most of the women are actively striving to lift themselves and their families out of poverty, whether they are working at low paid, precarious jobs, receive EI, rely on OW or ODSP, or a combination of OW or ODSP and paid work. Not surprisingly, social assistance (in all its complexity) was a major topic of discussion.
There was broad consensus that as the Commissioners review the program, it is essential that changes not be generic. Instead, changes that specifically address the unique needs of sole support mothers need to be included. From the perspective of the participants, a gendered approach in support of women means that policy must be developed and programs must be designed to meet the actual needs in their local communities and the barriers that this group faces. The transitions that women experience, from OW or ODSP to paid employment or study, the disruption of relationships as a result of abuse, the transition of children who become adults (on their 18th birthday) yet remain in the family home, and other transitions require appropriate policies that recognize the multiple roles that mothers perform in the 21st century family.
Download the entire Key Messages from BWV Workshops document in PDF