Charlottetown, PE - To mark Gender Equality Week, Opposition MLAs have been highlighting the contributions of Island women in creating a more diverse, inclusive, and equal PEI on social media using the hashtag #becauseofyou.
“I am proud of the work of individuals like Marie Burge, Erica Rutherford, Kirsten Lund, Chief Darlene Bernard, Sweta Daboo, Amber Jadis, and so many more Island women,” said Karla Bernard, Official Opposition Critic for the Status of Women. “While much has been done to advance equality on the Island, there is still so much work left to do.”
The COVID pandemic shone a bright light on how disproportionately women have been impacted. It also further highlighted the increased systemic barriers Islanders face when identities like race, class, gender, or sexuality overlap and intersect.
“In PEI we can see this impact in the unemployment numbers for women, with sectors that employ women hit the hardest,” said Bernard, “ Our economic recovery plans must include specific and targeted actions to bring women back into the workforce, including more affordable child care and more funding for industries where more women work like small shops, health care, child care, and hairdressing and aesthetics.”
Representation of women on decision-making bodies, including government advisory groups, often appear to be an afterthought.
“Women in decision making roles are not token - they bring different perspectives and experiences to the table,” explained Bernard, “The data tells us that a diverse board makes better economic and governance decisions. There are equity targets set for appointments via EngagePEI. However, these only work as long as they are continually respected, and appointments are done through that mechanism. For example, it was only after pressure from the Official Opposition Caucus that additional members representing women and diverse groups were added to the Economic Advisory Council.”
Leadership is also needed in government to get out front and first in health care services for women, non-binary people, and LGBTQ2 individuals.
“Government must take leadership in healthcare by providing such things as full support for gender transition services; contraception management by pharmacists; women’s wellness services across the province including at UPEI and Holland College campus; mental health supports and addictions services that realize there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution,” said Bernard.
Women are still not supported equally in the provision of skills and training programs, and particularly in business investment and development.
“Data is clear that women are less likely to approved for traditional business financing, regardless of the quality of their business plan - and the province’s focus on export has left many women-owned startups out of the running for mainstream provincial funding programs and services,” said Bernard, “Despite these systemic barriers, women in PEI have built strong and empowered communities that are successful, supportive, and breaking through every day.”
We encourage Islanders to continue to support efforts for gender equality in all areas of Island life and society. PEI is blessed with many trailblazers and champions, and we are stronger and better because of them. If you have a champion you want to recognize, please share it on social media using the hashtag #becauseofyou.