Canadian Women’s Foundation Launches Tireless Together Fund in the Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic

Funds go toward vulnerable women and girls affected by coronavirus in Canada

Eighty-eight per cent of women’s service providers surveyed are concerned about the pandemic’s impact on their capacity to deliver services

For immediate release: Wednesday, April 8, 2020

TORONTO, ON – Everyone in Canada has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis, but its impacts on women, girls, and trans and non-binary people in Canada are unique.

Providers offering shelter, violence intervention and prevention, poverty reduction support, and other targeted programs are essential to mitigate the gendered impacts of the pandemic. However, the spread of the coronavirus has led to service interruptions, diversions, and closures.

Eighty-eight per cent of 58 providers surveyed by the Canadian Women’s Foundation are concerned about the pandemic’s impact on their capacity to deliver services.

The Government of Canada recently announced $40 million to go toward shelters and sexual assault centres, and the Foundation is one partner to facilitate getting the aid to service providers. But there is more to do to respond to overwhelming pressures on women, girls, and trans and non-binary people. The Canadian Women’s Foundation has launched the nationwide Tireless Together Fund to respond to the daunting new realities.

“Many people in Canada want to help but aren’t sure how to,” says Paulette Senior, President and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “And it’s clear that women are on the frontlines of the crisis and their well-being is critical to the country’s ability to weather this storm. We knew we needed to act fast, so we launched the Tireless Together Fund to mobilize this goodwill and address the gendered impacts of COVID-19.”

Those who wish to contribute can do so online at Funds raised are flexible, designed to be used by service providers in every province and territory to meet greatest needs, and ensure programs at risk of closure and interruption can continue.

Evidence shows that situations of disaster and crisis can lead to more gender-based violence. Social distancing measures, while key to “flattening the curve”, may post risks to women in violent relationships. It can increase isolation and rates of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and emotional abuse.

Women will also have more economic stress in the pandemic. Gendered poverty has been a longstanding concern in Canada with women making up the bulk of the low-wage and precarious workforce. The wake of coronavirus has meant greater economic uncertainties for them, in addition to a greater risk of contracting the virus given the roles they play in feminized sectors such as healthcare, cleaning, and retail.

Many women face more caregiving and housework responsibilities in the pandemic, given the strain on hospitals and health services, school closures, and directions on self-isolation and quarantine. In most households in Canada, women already carry most of the unpaid caregiving and housework.

Community programs supported by the Canadian Women’s Foundation have already identified gendered impacts of COVID-19 on their clients and staff.

“It is difficult for shelter clients to view apartments during social isolation,” says Dara Rayner, Operations Manager at the Anderson House shelter for women and children in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. “We also have a client who had a court date regarding a recent domestic violence incident but court in her area has been cancelled. She is left in limbo without a new date or any information.”

Dara points out that “people and businesses may be donating less as the economy slows… and due to social isolation, we can’t accept donations dropped at the door. We are now buying them ourselves, which is something we’ve rarely had to do before. Our shelter’s grocery bill has increased drastically because of this, and because of the sheer number of people using our services.”

In terms of operations at Anderson House, Dara says, “we’ve also had to adapt our staff model to provide extra coverage. The crisis line is ringing much more frequently these days.”

Caitlin MacDonald, Girls’ Program Coordinator of the Girls Rising Empowerment Program at the Community Resource Centre in Killaloe, Ontario, says moving services online “presents issues in rural and remote communities like ours. There are areas with no Internet or cell service, as well as parts where unlimited Internet may be costly.” This means rural families “may have to prioritize financial and work-from-home Internet use ahead of accessing services and making educational and social connections.”

Caitlin says that “feeling isolated, trapped, and alone are all concerns we’ve heard locally. Women dealing with addiction may not be able to access their usual supports and may fall back into unhealthy coping strategies. Girls living in homes where violence happens may now be experiencing it themselves or witnessing it more than ever without having access to their usual supports. Making phone calls for support in an abusive home during social isolation may no longer be safe, and abusers may be surveilling their households now more than ever.”

At the same time, Stephanie Klassen, Executive Director of Survivor’s Hope Crisis Centre in Pinawa, Manitoba, points to areas of hope in community members banding together. She says that “the Sagkeeng High School is working to put together care packages in addition to educational packages for their students. We want to support that noble work!” She notes that the organization needs resources to be able to pivot to help build that kind of grassroots effort, “because all our programming with girls usually happens in schools, which we can’t do at this time.” While many programs for girls have had to shut down, Stephanie says they “build protective factors against the potential harms to which girls are vulnerable. And in a time when risk of harms has increased, we need to up those protective factors, not take them away.”

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Stacey Rodas, Manager of PR and Online Engagement, Canadian Women’s Foundation 416-365-1444 ext. 240

The Canadian Women’s Foundation is a national leader in the movement for gender equality in Canada. Through funding, research, advocacy, and knowledge sharing, the Foundation works to achieve systemic change that includes all women. By supporting community programs, the Foundation empowers women and girls to move themselves out of violence, out of poverty, and into confidence and leadership.

Launched in 1991 to address a critical need for philanthropy focused on women, the Canadian Women’s Foundation is one of the largest women’s foundations in the world. With the support of donors, the Foundation has raised more than $100 million and funded over 1,900 programs across the country. These programs focus on addressing the root causes of the most critical issues, and helping women and girls who face the greatest barriers.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation aims to be inclusive of diverse people across gender and sexuality spectrums. We focus our efforts on supporting those who face the most barriers and have least access to relevant services. This includes people who identify as women, girls, trans, genderqueer, non-binary, and 2SLGBTQI+.

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