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Vancouver group urges women to speak out at city council in January
Vancouver's skyline at sunrise is shown in this undated handout photo. Vancouver has been placed on travel site Lonely Planet's top ten list of cities to visit in 2020. (Destination BC/Albert Normandin via The Canadian Press)
A Vancouver group aimed at making cities more livable for women is hosting a workshop to encourage women to speak at an upcoming city council meeting where the updated Strategy on Gender Equality will be presented.
Ellen Woodsworth, chair of Women Transforming Cities, says there's still work to be done to make Vancouver an equitable city for women and wants them to head to city council chambers on Jan. 16 to speak on the updated strategy.
"If we can make Vancouver the greenest city in the world, we should be able to make it the most women-friendly city in the world," she told CTV News.
She said the upcoming council meeting is a wonderful chance for women to say whether or not they support the report and present any concerns they don't feel are adequately addressed.
Update Jan. 18, 2018: On Jan. 17, 2018, council approved the updated Women’s Equity Strategy for 2018-2028, titled Vancouver: A City for All Women. It focuses on five priority areas which are applying an intersectional lens to city processes; addressing safety and violence against women; accessible, quality childcare; safe and affordable housing and women’s leadership and representation.
Getting women's voices heard in council
The city doesn't track data on how many people who identify as women come to speak at council, spokesperson Jag Sandhu said. It only notes name, phone number and email address. But Woodsworth said her organization understands many women don't come before council to speak because they'd need to get childcare or because the meetings are at an inconvenient time.
On Jan. 13, the Saturday before the Gender Equality Strategy is presented, Women Transforming Cities is hosting a workshop at the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House on how to effectively speak up at a council meeting.
"We also address their insecurity or fear of going to council. It can be quite an intimidating process," she said.
Woodsworth is a former Vancouver city councillor who was co-chair of the Women's Task Force established by the original Gender Equality Strategy, so she knows the ins and outs of getting your voice heard at council.
"You have to know your subject," she said. "You've only got five minutes so you've got to choose one of the key issues you want to speak to."
Making cities work for women
Vancouver was recently ranked as the fifth best Canadian city for women to live in by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Woodsworth, however, still sees room for improvement.
She wants an intersectional lens applied to Vancouver's housing strategy, since she says the housing crisis disproportionately impacts young and older women. She said that's partly because women still aren't at earning parity with men.
She'd also like to see transit stay affordable for single mothers and to see it running 24 hours a day to accommodate women working irregular hours. Stopping near schools and childcare centres is also essential, she said.
Gender-based violence is another problem that disproportionately impacts Vancouver's women, she said.
"There's not a comprehensive city strategy to tackle violence against women despite the fact that Indigenous women are still going missing and violence against women is still a very significant concern," she said.
She did acknowledge the city has made progress since the 2005 strategy, particularly on the reconciliation front with Ginger Gosnell-Myers being brought on as aboriginal relations manager.
In April 2016, council also passed a motion to make sure 50 per cent of people appointed to city advisory committees are women. Vancouver's current city council is made up of five men and five women, plus Mayor Gregor Robertson.
Woodsworth is reminding anyone wishing to speak at council to sign up with the city clerk. WTC's workshop titled Learn to Speak Out at a Council Meeting will be held on Jan. 13 at 1 p.m. at the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House.