Sisterness and Work
Contact: Justine Maloney, Employment & Economic Development director
Sisterness and Work is a grassroots initiative that:
- Connect with Indigenous women in communities across the province,
- Learn about immediate challenges and opportunities, and
- Explore with Indigenous women how best to build paths that connect them to the economy in meaningful ways aligned with their culture and their role in their respective communities and families.
Indigenous women and girls are among the most vulnerable populations impacted by poverty and economic exclusion, whether they reside in our First Nation Communities or in mainstream communities. The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, two National Round-tables on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in 2015 and 2016, and the knowledge emerging from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls amply demonstrate the linkages between economic opportunity and safety.
In 2016, Provinces and Territories made the commitment to explore development of an economic action plan to support better outcomes for Indigenous women and girls, which has met with limited progress. Poverty is implicated in a range of co-occurring challenges facing Indigenous women and girls, including mental health impacts and entanglements in other dynamics of harm including involvement with mental health, child welfare and justice systems.
Canada’s recently released poverty Reduction Strategy offers a compelling analysis of the unique circumstances of poverty in Indigenous communities, linking it directly to Canada’s colonial history and government policies and actions that perpetuated economic exclusion and a lowered standard of living and marginalization over many years. Provincial and municipal governments have played a contributing role in this dark history. This history matters deeply in how a supportive response to poverty is approached, and requires an embrace of empowerment, capacity building and a focus on community well-being and culturally grounded supports.
Aligned with this frame of reference is the importance of applying a gender lens to understanding the nature of poverty for Indigenous women and girls and how this fact aligns with the realities that women are more likely than men to exist in situations of precarious employment or marginal connections to the economy, and with heightened risk of gender based violence. Poverty impacting Indigenous women also impacts Indigenous children as a large percentage of Indigenous families are in fact mother- led families, and so there is a generational harm, which functions to perpetuate the economic exclusion and marginalization even as our current policies have shifted to those offering support and reconciliation.
There is an opportunity, through Poverty Reduction to collaboratively examine what pathways to enhanced economic security might look like from the perspective of Indigenous women themselves.