Taking Stock of Gendered Violence and Women's Inequality
September 22, 2009, 11:22 AM EST
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, more than 200 women, teens and children gathered for the annual women's conference in Port Elgin, Ontario August 30 to September 2.
With the theme of examining the link between violence against women and women's inequality, women had the opportunity to take part in workshops, "knowledge cafes" (a new concept of informal knowledge sharing workshops pioneered at the Education Conference in August) and listen to guest speakers and panel discussions.
Guest speakers included Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour President Lana Payne and CAW President Ken Lewenza.
In her keynote address on the opening evening of the conference, Payne told delegates that although the work of ending violence is not easy, it is urgent and a fight that can be fought on several different fronts, including in politics. She said that during the recession the World Health Organization estimates that violence against women worsens yet Canadian policy makers and politicians have been silent on this issue.
"This may have something to do with the deplorable lack of women, and I would add feminists, elected to Parliament in Canada. As you know, just 22% of elected MPs are women - about where we were a decade ago," said Payne.
Julie White, director of CAW Women's Programs, said that this year's theme is especially poignant as the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre is quickly approaching and with that we need to take a very critical look at why violence against women continues unrelentingly.
"Today violence against women remains the world's largest and most persistent human rights violation, and Canada is no exception," said White. "The federal government estimates that the cost of violence against women at $1.1 billion per year in direct medical costs, rising to $4 billion a year after we factor in costs of criminal justice, social services and lost productivity."
The conference also introduced the upcoming "20 Days, 20 Ways" Canadian Labour Congress postcard campaign, urging government to take dramatic action to end violence against women. For each day, there is a different issue that needs to be addressed for gendered violence to be stopped. The issues range from funding for shelters, improved pensions, accessibility for women with disabilities and affordable housing to name a few. The campaign will kick off on November 16 in communities across the country.