Monday the NDP government officially joined in the United Nations’ 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.
The initiative is designed to help advance gender equality and make life safer for women, girls and transgender people.
Earlier in 2018 the province announced $734 million in funds, over 10 years, to provide new housing opportunities for women ranging from crisis shelter to transitional and long term solutions.
It has also committed dollars to improving access to counselling for abused women, and is increasing cellular service along Highway 16, the infamous Highway of Tears, and establishing a northern long haul bus service.
And that’s all great. However it begs this question: what are we doing locally to end gender violence? Also, what are the specific challenges faced by a community like Princeton when it comes to promoting equality and safety?
The Cindy Parolin Safe Homes program operates covertly. Refuge is available to women and their children fleeing violence or fear.
But it sort of ends there, save for the occasional business women’s workshop sponsored by the skills centre or support groups run by local churches.
It is harder in this town.
Princeton is relatively isolated. It is 112 km to Penticton and even further to Hope. (Intentional pun.) Transportation options are limited.
Women in Princeton face an enormous wage gap.
According to Stats Canada they earn less than half of their male counterparts – .44, compared to a Canadian average of .80.
This jarring disparity is likely due to the fact that only 18 per cent of people working in forestry and mining are women.
It’s not always true that financial independence protects a woman from violence, but a VISA card certainly creates options.
While it’s the result of a recruitment issue that extends far beyond our local RCMP detachment, there are no women police officers in Princeton. There is a part-time, female, victims services worker employed here.
It’s fair to say that women’s issues rarely hit the local radar – unless the newspaper editorializes on them and there is an inevitable backlash. Hire a male. Enough with your feminism. What about equality for men? These are actual comments we’ve received.
Finally, Princeton is a small town. The one degree of separation between many households elevates that “shame factor” for those who need help. As if a woman should feel shame for being assaulted or afraid,
Other communities raise awareness through events like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, and Take Back the Night. (Don’t knock a women’s march until you’ve participated in one. It can be a pretty empowering experience.)
Princeton has a new town council, and last week portfolios were assigned to the new members.
There is a trail committee, and portfolios for infrastructure, the cemetery and deer.
Federally there is a Minister for the Status of Women and B.C. has a Secretary for Gender Equality.
Locally, a member of government assigned to women’s issues would be an innovative and welcomed appointment.
– The Similkameen Spotlight