Canada’s Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef announced up to $2.5 million in funding for a new initiative designed to combat gender-based violence (GBV) against Black women and girls on Wednesday.
The project, entitled Advancing Gender Equity for Black Women and Girls in Canada to Respond to COVID-19, aims to further gender equity and prevent GBV during and beyond the pandemic.
COVID-19 has led to an increased risk of domestic violence worldwide, as women remain locked at home with their abusers and services like shelters are shut down. Social distancing measures have also made it difficult for people experiencing violence or abuse to find support from family and friends, also dealing with a decrease in visiblity from police or health care practitioners, according to Western University’s Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children.
A report published by Women’s Shelters Canada (WSC) in November 2020 found that there had been a spike in violence against women starting in March 2020, when various COVID-19 measures were took effect, Global News reported.
Black women and girls face a greater risk of GBV. To address current gaps, the government’s new project will incorporate community-based research and rely on insights from a National Steering Committee “by and for diverse Black women and girls,” which will engage with Black women’s community organizers and experts.
With the help of the committee, the program will create and execute a national gender equity strategy to address systemic factors that cause anti-Black racism, according to the news release.
“GBV remains unacceptably prevalent in Canada, but its impacts are not felt equally." Monsef said. "Black women, girls, and members of the Black LGBTQ2 community remain at particular risk for GBV and it is essential that we work with the community to take action."
She noted that the newly announced funding will work to improve data collection and knowledge exchange, and expand the capacity of partner organizations, as well as other groups working with Black Canadians.
“Their work will also help to inform the next steps on the National Action Plan to end GBV, making it stronger and more effective,” she added.
The program will be fulfilled by the Women’s Centre for Social Justice, in partnership with the Canadian Women’s Foundation and Battered Women’s Support Services, the government said.
Among its goals are to create awareness about the rights for Black women and girls, increase capacity and resources for organizations working to respond to GBV, take actions to improve equality for the Black community, and to align policies and processes with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
While this project is specifically meant to improve outcomes for Black women and girls in Canada, it is also meant to improve the inequalities that persist in Canadian culture overall — made especially clear amid COVID-19.
“It's the start of a movement focused on truth and transformation, developed and delivered by us, for us," Nneka MacGregor, co-founder and executive director of the Women’s Centre for Social Justice, said in the release. "It will allow for the creation of opportunities for us to speak our truths, about the myriad ways that anti-Black racism subverts and undermines our lives."
The knowledge will be shared through the learning exchange hub with community organizations, educational institutions, the Gender-Based Violence Knowledge Centre, the FPT Forum, and Canada’s Anti-Racism Secretariat, according to the government.
“We will create a framework that will be used by all stakeholders, especially governments, to advance gender equity for Black women, Black girls, and Black gender-diverse peoples in Canada,” MacGregor added. “I cannot stress enough the importance of this work that we are embarking on, how transformational it's going to be, because nothing like this has been previously undertaken, on such a scale, and focused on us.”