Leaders in Women’s Health: City for All Women Initiative (CAWI)

City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) – Ottawa

Thank you to Tong Zhao-Ansari, CAWI’s Community Engagement Coordinator, for providing the responses to the questionnaire.

1. What women’s health issue do you work in? Can you tell us a little about your greatest successes and challenges?

City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) is a unique collaboration of women from diverse communities, organizations, and academia working with municipal decision makers to create a more inclusive city and promote gender equality.

Women’s health inequities have strong impacts on the health of those living in poverty, social exclusion and discrimination, the erosion of employment quality, its adverse mental health outcomes.

CAWI works with and supports women from diverse communities through participatory and creative process and draw upon their strengths, cultural expression, values and knowledge to voice their concerns on social and gender inequity with Ottawa City decision makers and to make a difference for our community. In this way, we promote and create systemic change on social policies that address inequity in social determinants of health. We also promote a democratic practice where women can engage in the electoral and decision making process and move beyond it. It is a political approach that creates a deep sense of belonging, equity and gender equality.

Increasing the diversity of women in leadership, and keeping the needs and health of women in mind when developing policies and services, is essential to having healthy and quality of life in our cities. This means considering a multitude of gender equality issues like equitable access to health care services and resources, family responsibility, safety, sexual violence and income levels, as well as ensuring the full diversity of women are included.

For the past four years, we supported Ottawa women residents in voicing their need for a low-income transit pass for Ottawa low-income residents. They talked to and emailed their City Councillors, did deputations at the Transit Commission Committee, rallied and spoke to media. Because of their unified voice, the City of Ottawa is implementing an EquiPass which is half price of a regular adult pass. Women on low-income now have affordable and equitable access to get on the bus to seek employment, go to work, volunteer, take kids somewhere, or go to doctor appointment.

2. Why are you passionate about women’s health?

Women have a lot to contribute to healthy and quality of life in our city, especially women at the margins of society who have particular insights into what is needed to make our city an inclusive, healthy and caring place to live for everyone.

Women experience cities differently, and have specific concerns when it comes to aspects of city life such as housing, employment, public transit, violence and safety, childcare and access to decision making. For example, women are more likely to live in poverty, and still earn only on average 63.4 % (2004) of what men earn, and do more unpaid work in home and community. When women are healthy, they contribute to overall health of this society. For these reasons, we change the city by working from the margins with those of us who have less power and privilege in society.

3. What is your vision for women’s health equity in Ontario?

We envision an Ontario in which:

  • Women of all races, cultures, languages, ages, abilities, sexual orientations and identities have equitable access to health care services and decision making.
  • No woman lives in poverty.
  • Women’s knowledge, work, time, rights, and leadership are fully recognized and valued.
  • Women’s diverse experiences, cultures and perspectives are honoured and viewed as an asset in building an inclusive, healthy and caring community.

4. What resources, tools or research would you like to share with us?

Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report, Statistics Canada

Advancing Equity and Inclusion, CAWI

Community Facilitation Guide, CAWI

Profiles for Equity Seeking Group

A Kit for Engaging City Decision Makers, CAWI & Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres