Defending rights and raising awareness

Going beyond our daily and individual actions to create a far-reaching and long-lasting social impact in order to reduce exclusion, inequality and violence against women and girls. That is why we have actively organized, collaborated on and participated in many events and campaigns to promote mobilization, involvement, and raise awareness around women’s issues.1

Four initiatives in 2019-20 deserve special attention.

Affordable Housing

The right to clean, affordable and safe housing is a fundamental right. Yet Montreal is experiencing a serious crisis in this regard, and the situation worsened considerably in 2019-2020. This housing crisis disproportionately affects women, especially single mothers, older women, students and racialized women.

A twitter campaign during the federal election, an open letter in La Presse, and a letter to the ministers involved in the budget update were some of the methods we used to raise awareness of this issue among those in leadership positions. In addition, we worked on this very topic with Radio-Canada’s financial analyst, Gérald Fillion, and his research team, to create a special program that was to be broadcast in mid-March. Unfortunately, the health crisis meant that the program never aired.

Sexual exploitation

An overwhelming majority of female sex workers are recruited as minors, the average age being around 14.7. Most are recruited in educational settings (from primary schools through to universities), youth centres, metro stations, and parks. Electronic communication, particularly social media, has expanded the arsenal of recruitment tactics used for the purposes of sexual exploitation, and large international events are a conducive environment to recruiting young girls. Gifts, the irresistibility of luxury, and the easy money flaunted by recruiters are a powerful draw.

This issue is at the heart of many of the projects that we have been developing for over 10 years now. That is why, in January 2020, we chose to participate in the provincial consultation on the sexual exploitation of minors and to also submit a brief on this topic.

Violence against women

The United Nations feels that violence against women is such that it merits the name “The Shadow Pandemic.” Unfortunately, Quebec and Montreal are no exception with respect to this issue. Domestic and sexual violence regularly make the headlines. There is no longer talk of waves of accusations; rather, it is a continuous stream.

On this note, on the 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre we published an article on the systemic nature of violence against women. Thanks to the generous involvement of FCB Montréal, we also introduced three awareness campaigns to provide insight into the scope of this phenomenon – these campaigns had a high participation rate.

Preventing violence

To help fight inequality and gender-based violence, upstream preventative measures are key. Providing youth with the opportunity to develop critical thinking, to learn how to identify sexual consent, and be equipped to build healthy and egalitarian relationships are essential to a universe where the virtual world has become an integral part of the daily reality of youth.

We have thus taken the opportunity to submit courses of action regarding the Quebec Ministry of Education’s plans to overhaul its ethics and religious culture (ERC) classes. We believe the notions of cybersexuality, sexual exploitation, consent, critical thinking and developing healthy interpersonal relationships must be included in the new content to be replaced in the ERC course.

1 Our main initiatives and participation in events for the cause of women and girls are available in the detailed report of our activities (in French).

Acting where it counts

The approximately 4,380 women, girls, and boys who directly benefited from Women’s Y programs and services in 2019-2020 were between the ages of 3 months and 83 years. Of this number, the vast majority lived on the island of Montreal, in neighbourhoods with a high index of disadvantage, as shown on the following map. Approximately 68% of these women, girls and boys had an immigrant background.

376 people – 13 %

360 people – 13 %

302 people – 11 %

279 people – 10 %

134 people – 5 %

110 people – 4 %

71 people – 2 %

71 people – 2 %

65 people – 2 %

64 people – 2 %

61 people – 2 %