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6 leaders share how we can #EmbraceEquity in the GTA

March 02, 2023 by United Way Greater Toronto

Illustration of six women of different ethnic backgrounds dressed for different professions, including a doctor, business person and construction worker.

This International Women’s Day, we asked local female leaders how we can foster gender equity in the GTA

March 8 is International Women’s Day — an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while reflecting on the work ahead to achieve full equality for women worldwide and in our own communities. Women across Peel, Toronto and York Region face a persistent gender wage gap, precarious employment, unaffordable housing, and expensive childcare. And women who are Indigenous, racialized, immigrants, or who live with a disability can face compounded and intersecting challenges. 

United Way is committed to correcting these injustices and building communities where every woman and girl can thrive, investing in 90 programs specifically designed for women, as we continue to work with partners across the GTA to make strides towards gender equity. That means supporting women and children fleeing violence at home, helping women find stable employment, empowering girls to reach their full potential, and supporting newcomer women who may experience unique challenges. 

But there’s more to be done. We asked leaders from United Way and from the agencies we support how we can continue to #EmbraceEquity here at home, as this year’s International Women’s Day theme invites us to do. Their answers range from celebrating women’s achievements to valuing different lived experiences. Together, they reflect the diversity of women’s experiences in our communities. 

Lori Galway, Director of Public Affairs, United Way Greater Toronto 

In addition to funding community agencies that provide critical services to women, United Way works with the community, public and corporate partners to address systemic and intersecting barriers of poverty and historic inequities. United Way advocates for affordable housing, good jobs, a living wage, and access to critical services. We strive to be a partner in change, with a commitment to consistently reflecting, learning and growing our partnership with the people and communities our work is intended to support.

Linda Elwin, Equity, Anti-Racism Anti-Oppression Coordinator, Krasman Centre 

Dear GTA Employers, 

Kindly understand that the gap on my resume is a result of being a Black single mother who was forced to choose between her child and career due to systemic barriers and racism, and lack of affordable childcare options. Please don’t assume that the gap means I don’t have value to contribute to your organization or that my skills faltered during that period, when I had to learn to make something out of very little. Quite the contrary, for during that period I was raising the next generation while being mended and moulded by life itself.  

The GTA can #EmbraceEquity by being a place where a woman isn’t judged by the gap in her resume, and employers recognize that the value she can bring due to her lived experiences is as significant and valuable as any degree or credentials. The greatest lessons come from navigating and overcoming all that life throws at you. My lived experience is my badge of honour because I have overcome and conquered the greatest battles of all, the battles of life.  

The Krasman Centre is a Consumer/Survivor Initiative that offers peer support-based programs, physical hubs and resources for people with lived experience of mental health, substance use and housing challenges, their family and friends. They serve York Region, areas of Simcoe County and North Toronto, with drop-in centres in Richmond Hill, Newmarket, and Alliston. 

Ritu Singarayer, Director of Community Development, Community Living York South 

Community Living York South works to empower people with an intellectual disability to live, learn, work and participate in their community. 

Arash Chahal, Communications Officer at Punjabi Community Health Services  

To be equitable means recognizing that we do not all start from the same place in life, and we must acknowledge this and adjust to imbalances within our communities. This year for International Women’s Day, we’ll #EmbraceEquity by recognizing women from local communities at our International Women’s Day Gala. Our goal is to celebrate and support South Asian women and women from diverse communities and give them a platform to raise their voices so that we can work towards creating a world free of gender bias, stereotypes and discrimination against women. Such events are essential in creating equitable opportunities for Indigenous and racialized communities. 

Punjabi Community Health Services (PCHS) is a not-for-profit, charitable, accredited health service provider. Our vision is to have healthy and thriving diverse communities and to improve the well-being of individuals, families and communities using an anti-racism and anti-oppression framework. 

Sandra Rupnarain, Executive Director, Family Services of Peel 

Family Services of Peel provides professional counselling, educational programs, employment support services, support for people with developmental disabilities and their families, and support for victims of violence and abuse. 

Khadija Zafar, Education and Outreach Coordinator, SMILE Canada

Equity in the GTA can be embraced by investing in and supporting racialized women and children and youth with disabilities by considering the different intersectional needs of underserved populations. This will ensure approaches are relevant and effective, providing opportunities that will truly be beneficial and maximize independence. Recently, SMILE developed Open Shop, where racialized youth were provided a mentorship opportunity to launch their own businesses. By doing so, young people that are more likely to face barriers in employment and entrepreneurship could engage in social and economic opportunities for the betterment of their futures. For example, a young Arabic-speaking woman with an intellectual disability from a Syrian-refugee family developed a handmade jewellery business through this program, developing economic and social skills.

SMILE Canada – Support Services is a charity dedicated to supporting racialized children and youth with disabilities and their families, with a focus area on diverse Muslim communities including refugee and new immigrant families. Our vision is to support families through various programs and services in a culturally responsive manner. 

If you are interested in raising funds and support for women’s issues, all while being part of dedicated community of women, we invite you to learn more about United Way’s Women United.

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