Speaking Out Against Poverty
U of G research group to take rural women's stories to United Nations
BY DEIRDRE HEALEY
Members of U of G's Rural Women Making Change (RWMC) research group will bring stories of Canadian rural women to the international stage at a United Nations panel discussion Oct. 16.
RWMC director Prof. Belinda Leach, program co-ordinator Susan Turner, researcher Colleen Purdon and research assistant Evelyn Encalada-Grez have been invited to help launch the second UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, the second phase of an international initiative to reduce worldwide poverty.
As part of the launch, a panel discussion will be held in front of an audience of UN staff, international non-governmental organizations and media at UN headquarters in New York City.
“I think the UN is in for a surprise,” says Leach. “They might expect to hear how great things are for rural women here in the ‘First World.' But the truth is that rural poverty, a lack of opportunities and gender inequality are huge issues in rural Canada, just as they are for rural women in developing nations around the world.”
In Canada, rural women are a diverse group, working in the agricultural, manufacturing and service industries, says Turner. Lack of access to job and skills training and public transportation as well as shrinking community resources put rural women on an unequal footing, she says.
“Canada is a leader in exporting gender equality to developing nations, but our own record is sketchy. Rural women around the world suffer from poverty, lack of transportation and declining rural opportunities, and they are not a priority with governments. Our research shows that this is perfectly true in Canada right now as well.”
The RWMC is a community-university research alliance aimed at expanding understanding of the social, economic and political processes that hinder the full participation, effectiveness and well-being of rural women and their advocates.
The goal of the group, which is made up of community organization members and academics, is to help rural women's organizations involved in local, national and international policy promote action for change.
Co-researchers include women from the National Farmers' Union, the Canadian Auto Workers Local 88 Women's Committee, Women Today of Huron and the Women's Employment Resource Centre in Woodstock, as well as academics at five Canadian universities and women working in policy processes with government.