As a result of decades of deliberate systematic defunding of the women’s rights sector under previous governments, women’s organizations lost significant capacity to provide critical services and analysis in support of gender equality. These cuts resulted in fewer resources being available for service provision; reduced wages and benefits for employees of women’s organizations; and lowered capacity to participate in ongoing training, skills development, and community engagement to better understand and meet the needs of their communities.
While investments in the sector under the Liberal government over the past five years has helped the sector recuperate some of its capacity, much of the funding received is tied to project delivery rather than core operational capacity, leaving organizations with little fiscal flexibility to weather crises such as the current pandemic. After months of uncertainty and ongoing challenges, the sector is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the economic and social fallout of the pandemic.
Many studies have shown that women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and experts have labelled the pandemic-induced recession a "she-cession". While women’s organizations are integral in supporting and advocating for women in various situations and with various needs, the gendered impacts of the pandemic not only impact individual women but also impact our organizations, as organizations are struggling to stay in operation. The sector has not only seen a decrease in flexible funding, but with the majority of employees being women with some form of care responsibilities, organizations are losing precious staff capacity as women are dropping out of the workforce, unable to juggle work and care responsibilities.
Against this backdrop, YWCA Canada, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW), the Canadian Women’s Foundation, G(irls)20 and Oxfam Canada conducted an online survey to assess the state of the women’s rights sector in Canada and the impacts the pandemic has had on these organizations to operate their vital services in Canada.
The purpose of the online survey was to collect concrete data and first hand accounts from fellow women’s organizations to inform our collective advocacy efforts and to propose women’s sector specific solutions. In October 2020, to expand the scope of our research and to reach the most women’s organizations possible, the survey was sent out to our various networks and shared on social media.
The findings are based on the 117 responses we received.