By Nadine Raymond, CEO of YWCA Montreal
I joined YWCA Montreal as CEO last May, quite recently. The YWCA, for its part, was founded in the heart of Montreal 146 years ago. Ever since, we have been tirelessly defending the rights of women and girls to ensure that the city they live in is more inclusive, more egalitarian, and less violent. And if we’re still here after 146 years, it’s because there is still much to do to ensure that these rights are respected and get all the attention they deserve.
The pandemic highlighted the many faces of inequality and increased factors of vulnerability experienced by women (violence, job losses, working conditions). While the easing of health regulations has generally made the day-to-day easier, the women we provide help to are still a long way from finding themselves back in a healthy living environment. We witness the many critical issues they are facing, including access to well-paid jobs with decent working conditions, access to affordable and safe housing for them and their families, and, unfortunately—underlying all these difficulties—the violence that many of them face.
The municipal elections are the perfect opportunity to reflect on the Montreal we’d like to see in this post-pandemic world. In unveiling its Plan for the Future earlier this year, the YWCA clearly put forward its vision of Montreal in the decades to come. A Montreal that looks out for and welcomes women, girls and gender-diverse people. I would like to take the opportunity presented by this electoral campaign to share with you what it means for Montreal to be a shining example with respect to inclusion, equality and non-violence.
What it means to have a Montreal that is more inclusive, more egalitarian and less violent
It is a Montreal where single moms won’t have to choose between paying their rent or feeding their children because their income is too low and there is no affordable housing. 45% of women employed in Montreal earn less than $20,000 annually, and one in three single moms lives below the poverty line.
It is a Montreal that is designed such that women and girls will no longer feel the need to call a friend with one hand while holding their keyring in the other while they’re out walking or taking public transit. The rate of sexual violence and harassment against women in Montreal is higher than anywhere else in Quebec.
It is a Montreal where the employment and labour force participation rates of women will no longer systematically be between 8% and 10% lower than that of men.
It is a Montreal that conducts Gender Equality and Intersectional Analyses (GEIA) when it is time to make decisions.
In short, a Montreal that has the courage to speak out and to act to reduce inequalities faced by women and gender-diverse people, a city that sets an example and makes sure its citizens can live and work in full equality, inclusion and safety. It is our hope that the next administration also has the same ambitions and becomes an ally in rolling out this vision.
This letter has been published by La Presse (in French) on November 2nd, 2021.