This April, over 250 feminist organizations are set to lose capacity-building funding from the federal government. This funding was crucial to the sector after feminist initiatives experienced a decade of underfunding and helped many organizations weather the instability of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Losing this funding will devastate the sector. It will result in cuts to crucial programming and staff – and in some cases, entire organizations will be forced to shut their doors.
Amid a global backlash on the rights of women, trans, and non-binary people, a strong and resilient feminist movement in Canada is needed now more than ever. There is no feminist movement without feminist organizations. Tell your elected officials to invest in gender equity and commit to funding feminist organizations in the upcoming federal budget now!
The impact of capacity-building funding
Read about how capacity-building funding has impacted feminist organizations and the communities they serve, and why investing in the feminist movement is critical to advancing gender equity in Canada.
The capacity-building funding gave LEAF the space to scale up our work significantly. Notably, it allowed us to invest in growing and supporting our branches across the country and developing a strategic vision for our organization, which has led to us to taking bold positions to advance gender equity through law reform and litigation.
With this growth and new vision, we increased our average yearly involvement in cases by over 15%. Many of these cases have resulted in monumental wins for gender equity, including ensuring equitable changes to legal obligations for child support, protecting women’s right to equal pension benefits, and upholding important protections for survivors in sexual assault trials. The strides we made toward gender justice in the past few years would not have been possible without stable, predictable, and adequate government funding. We are committed to building on the momentum that this funding has helped kickstart and are counting on its renewal to ensure we can continue effectively fighting for gender equity in Canada through law.
Capacity-building funding is most beneficial when it is an ongoing investment. This funding has allowed ACWS to undertake initiatives that support our members, build upon their strengths, and increase their impact. We were able to hire an external philanthropy consultancy to advise member organizations on strategic fund development; we developed an online members hub, which became especially important over the pandemic and allowed us to pivot to a virtual environment for trainings and resource-sharing; and we facilitated frequent meetings with shelter directors to identify sector-wide concerns, bridge gaps, and share knowledge, allowing us to work collectively towards our common goal.
Capacity-building funds were critical to solidifying Luke’s Place’s as a provincial centre of excellence. We have exceeded performance on our strategic goals including developing our next strategic and operational plans. We developed and implemented effective advocacy and financial health strategies that led to systemic and legislative reform, significantly increased funding support, and broadened reach with new and deepened collaborative relationships. Increased organizational capacity has enabled us to implement succession planning with a particular focus on increased diversity in our team. This funding has taken Luke’s Place from an organization facing wind down and potential closure to a vibrant, resilient, and award-winning centre of excellence addressing the intersections of intimate partner violence and family law.
WAGE’s Capacity Building funding has allowed the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies to strengthen and grow our support for our membership of community-based Elizabeth Fry Societies. By enabling CAEFS to hire–for the first time–a staff team, we had the internal capacity to create cohesion and build solidarity within our network, which has led to more informed and effective collaborations as well as better supports and services for the people that we work with.
WAGE capacity-building fund has also allowed CAEFS to identify a major gap in supports and services in the North. We have been able to collaborate outside of our membership, most notably in the Yukon where we have made substantial strides in connecting impacted populations with legal supports and services.
With the end of the capacity-building fund, relationships with key partners will be stalled as we will lose our staff capacity. CAEFS was not the only organization in our network to receive capacity-building funding, and the loss of employment resonates across the network with the end of the capacity building fund.
The women’s and gender equality sector provides lifesaving services and produces transformative change with scarce resources despite a lack of capacity and inadequate, unpredictable funding. WAGE’s 2018 Capacity-Building Program funding was a lifeline to a sector verging on collapse after a decade of shrinking federal funding and organizational closures. It sparked crucial capacity building, revitalized organizations, strengthened services, and confirmed predictable, multi-year funding for capacity and sustainability as the most effective approach to ensuring a viable movement for women’s and gender equality. Extending this program is an essential, high-reward investment of WAGE funds.
During the past few years, the Manitoba Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Prevention sector has been under tremendous strain. The sector agencies, already struggling with structural challenges and operational silos, have had to cope with escalating rates of GBV, funding difficulties, and a historical lack of training to support clients with complex needs. They have also faced operational challenges due to lack of post-shelter housing for clients, increased staff turnover, pandemic-related burnout, vicarious trauma, and compassion fatigue. To address these challenges, MAWS used capacity-building funding to launch communications, public education, GBV staff training, outreach, collective engagement, and advocacy initiatives. To support our increased capacity, we used the capacity-building grants to grow from an association that had a part-time Provincial Coordinator to an organization with seven more staff members who are specialists in their areas of work.
We have brought Manitoba Family Violence (FV) shelters and other agencies together to consult on solutions to balance the pressures of frontline work on staff with the equally important need to provide consistent client-centred care rooted in trauma-informed, intersectional, anti-racist, and decolonial principles. Through our work, MAWS’ structure and place as a GBV prevention thought leader has grown, along with our scope and impact on communities throughout Manitoba. For us, capacity building is a collaborative, ongoing initiative to support and transform the Manitoba anti-violence sector, and ensure that sector agencies emerge more resilient and unified in a post-pandemic landscape affected by economic and environmental uncertainties. Without the capacity-building grants made available through WAGE, MAWS would not have been able to provide the support this sector needs and continues to need.
Capacity-building funding allowed our organization to build child care advocacy organizations in networks in five provinces where they did not previously exist and strengthen advocacy efforts across the country. The federal government announced in 2021 that it will build a Canada-wide system of affordable, accessible, and inclusive early learning and child care. The quality of such a system requires the direct involvement of citizens, particularly women, in the development and implementation of child care policy. Our organization’s mandate is to bring diverse communities together to ensure that their voices are heard by public policy makers at all government levels. Fulfilling our mandate requires the financial support of the federal government through capacity-building and other funding. When our capacity-building grant runs out, the steady progress we have made to bring informed community voices to the building of the Canada-wide system of early learning and child care will end. Inevitably, governments will make poorer child care policy decisions. The future shape of Canada’s emerging child care system is at stake.
Capacity-building funding from WAGE enabled us to strengthen the capacity of our board and chapters across Canada to implement key elements of our 2017-2022 Strategic Plan. A transformative achievement from the funding was obtaining charitable status, which has been a game-changer for CCMW. We are now able to raise funds ourselves for important programs to help Canadian Muslim women, girls, and gender diverse folks across Canada and issue tax receipts. We were able to amplify our voices, our vision, and mission through a new website, a social media infrastructure, as well as traditional media and social media training and mentorship for our board, chapter, and staff members. Other highlights include the development of an advocacy toolkit and training, a policy governance board, and a human resources structure and systems commensurate with a successful charitable organization. We were also able to increase the number of chapters across Canada from 12 to 18 and develop our 2023-2028 Strategic Plan through Canada-wide stakeholder engagement, particularly engaging Muslim women, girls, and gender diverse individuals to ensure the plan is responsive to their needs.
The funding also enabled us to hire a Communications Officer and a Fundraising Officer to transform our communications and marketing efforts and ensure our charitable status meets the critical needs of Muslim women experiencing gender-based violence. Despite delays and challenges caused by the pandemic, we have built great momentum and recruited talented individuals to carry out these vital roles. However, both of these positions are now vulnerable because the capacity-building funding will end in March. We still need to build further capacity to ensure long-term sustainability for CCMW and meet the needs of Canadian Muslim women, girls, and gender diverse folks.
Elizabeth Fry New Brunswick (EFryNB) received a 3-year WAGE capacity-building grant, which ends on March 31, 2023. The purpose of this capacity-building grant was to strengthen our organization to be in a sound position to create and develop a social enterprise that could provide employment opportunities for women and gender-diverse individuals impacted by criminalization in New Brunswick. As a result of WAGE’s investment in EFryNB, we’ve been able to:
- Expand EFryNB to become provincial in its scope, especially with respect to expanding court support services, human trafficking awareness and support, record suspension application supports and funding, and weekly programs at the New Brunswick Women’s Correctional Centre
- Undergo a board assessment, which resulted in developing a Board matrix that assisted with guiding the invitation of new Board members; onboarding of new Board members to ensure cultural and geographic representation; implementing a Board training plan; developing a Board orientation process; and creating active Board committees, including Governance, Development, Housing, Finance, and Advocacy and Education
- Create a 5-year Strategic Plan (2022 to 2027), a Marketing and Communication Plan, and a Revenue Development Plan
- Revise and approve both EFry Policies and by-laws, which were approved at the 2022 Annual General Meeting
This enabled us to be in a more solid, grounded position to develop a social enterprise that takes a feminist, wholistic, trauma-informed, and participatory approach. We invited our My Place Housing residents and those we support in the community to engage actively in a business ideation process to name the business, attend an 8-week women’s entrepreneur course to develop a business plan, develop an impact evaluation plan, plan a twice weekly skill training program, design our workplace culture, and implement the business. The Social Enterprise is about to conduct a Marketing Analysis and develop a Marketing and Communication plan on its way to become operational.
Over the past four years, we have been able to better support women with complex trauma and needs as a collaborative as a result of the capacity-building funding. We identified a specific group of individuals who were facing multiple barriers in the community and require advocacy, service navigation support, and intense services to meet their needs. Unfortunately, the loss of the capacity-building funding means we cannot continue this work, which will greatly impact the services that we can offer and will directly result in women and gender-diverse individuals being turned away from services they desperately need with huge personal and societal costs. Complex trauma contributes to a lack of access to resources, and therefore increased instability, poverty, criminalization, and isolation. Women living with complex trauma require a dedicated model of service that was implemented with the support of the capacity-building funding.
Capacity-building funding from WAGE was an essential part of our growth over the past few years. With these funds, we hired staff dedicated to fundraising and communications, and developed a database that allows us to significantly scale up our advocacy and outreach efforts. The overall effect of this funding cannot be over-emphasized – it has allowed for organic, sustainable growth that we could simply not have achieved otherwise. By enhancing our overall operational capacity, our programming efforts have also benefited. Our advocacy has become more deeply connected with the communities we partner with here in British Columbia. We have been able to leverage our superpower to bridge communities directly impacted with reforming the laws and policies that impact those communities, especially where multiple intersections of oppression and identity are at play. We need to keep this work strong and we can’t do it without funds dedicated to capacity-building.
What do feminist organizations mean to you? We want to hear your thoughts — please share your own experience with a gender equity or feminist organization below.
This campaign is coordinated by a coalition of women’s and gender equity organizations across Canada and our allies:
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters
Amnesty International Canada (English Section)
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
Battered Women’s Support Services
BC Society of Transition Houses
Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness
Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives CCPA
Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW)
Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW)
Child Care Now (Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada)
Childcare Resource and Research Unit (CRRU)
Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Ending Violence Association of Canada
Feminist Alliance for International Action FAFIA
l’Association féministe d’éducation et d’action sociale (Afeas)
Manitoba Association of Women’s Shelters (MAWS)
National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL)
National Council of Women of Canada
National Right to Housing Network
New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity
OCASI (Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants)
Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale
Transition House Association of Nova Scotia (THANS)
Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund LEAF
Women’s National Housing & Homelessness Network