What do women with disabilities have to celebrate at Canadas 150?
Canada is ‘celebrating’ 150 years in this year. But with the highest rates of sexual violence and unemployment and an historically persistent void, or should we say abyss in policy, programming and funding at every level of government, what do Canadian women and girls with disabilities have to celebrate?
Feminist disability activists and our allies have spent a great deal of time and considerable resources in 2016 and 2017 at roundtables and consultations telling the government what we want for women and girls with disabilities in Canada. But talk alone will not result in the system level changes that are needed to ensure that women and girls with disabilities take their rightful place in Canadian society.
When we talk about systemic change, we are talking about taking a longer view on addressing inequity; we are talking about holding governments, the public service and all Canadians accountable to their commitments until the problem is fixed; not just until the next budget or the next election.
Changing policies, and programs and funding allocations will go a long way, as will raising up resilient, confident girls with disabilities and giving them the same opportunities to thrive, to succeed and to lead as other girls in Canada.
This year, we saw several women-led organizations make concrete commitments and focused investments of time and funding for girls and young women with disabilities. One is the Canadian Women’s Foundation, another is the Canadian Centre for Rehabilitation and Work.
The Canadian Women’s Foundation has funded a 4-year joint initiative between DAWN Canada and the Girls Action Foundation that is focused on developing self-esteem and leadership for 9 to 13 year old girls with disabilities. The Canadian Centre for Rehabilitation and Work is working with us to implement a three-year pilot project in Quebec which will provide job preparation and job experience for young women with disabilities.
Through these two initiatives with our partners, we are sending a message to young women with disabilities and girls with disabilities that they are important and that they are the change we want to see in the world. And that is something to celebrate.
National Executive Director – DAWN Canada