They are an unlikely group of warriors:
pregnant women, living with disabilities, elderly and teens, black and white, homeless, rich, Anglophone, Francophone. But they are all women, and they are crying out to City Council to acknowledge them.
Ottawa Citizen, September 30, 2001
Upon endorsing the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) declaration on Women and Local Government in 1999, the Regional Council of Ottawa-Carleton passed a motion to establish the Working Group on Women’s Access to Municipal Services. It was to be a partnership between the City of Ottawa and women representing diverse communities. With participation from city staff, community women and academics, the Working Group carried out research of 29 women’s organizations on what was needed to ensure that women from diverse backgrounds would have access to needed services. This was of particular concern given the downloading and reduction of services that occurred in Ontario in the 1990’s and the impact this could have on women at the community level.
The research revealed that there were some good practices in the city that address women’s specific needs, however gender was not systematically taken into account in decision-making. (Final Report)Indeed, the City of Ottawa did not have the kind of information that would be necessary to take gender and diversity among women into account in a systematic way.
To respond to this need, the City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) was established in 2004 to research best practices on how to ensure that concerns of women from diverse backgrounds are systematically considered in city decision-making.
In February 2004, CAWI conducted a survey of women’s organizations: Taking Women Into Account. The survey revealed that most women in these organizations did not understand how city government works, felt they had little influence and doubted municipal decision makers would understand their concerns as they did not see women from their communities represented among them. Based on this finding, the first women’s Civic Participation Training was organized to enable women from diverse communities and organizations to make their views known to City Hall.
In June 2004, City Council passed a motion to formally recognize City for All Women Initiative as a city-community partnership. It was tasked with conducting research to identify best practices in other cities, nationally and internationally, on inclusion of the full diversity of women in planning and decision-making. In May 2005, CAWI reported its findings to the Health and Social Services Standing Committee. A subsequent motion directed the Community and Protective Services Department to work with CAWI “to ensure that the goal, of implementing practices and strategic plans that increase gender sensitivity and enhance gender equality, is realized.”
A Gender Equality Reference Group was formed, comprised of city staff and community experts from diverse communities, which designed and guided the pilot of the Gender Equality Lens -(You may print this guide to assist you in including the full diversity of women in a consultation. However, prior to using any part of this guide in another publication, contact us for permission) in the Community and Protective Services Department of the City of Ottawa. An evaluation was completed in January 2007 and steps are being taking toward city-wide implementation in keeping with the Opportunity Agenda of the 2005 City Corporate Plan
Since the formation of CAWI, increasing numbers of women from diverse communities have made their concerns known to City Council. In wearing peach scarves when engaging with City Council, we make visible our common concerns across our diversity.
Learn about CAWI's past actions