From Charity to Investment
by Pat Webb
As the effects of the federal budget begin to be felt deeply throughout the land, we demonstrate the usual responses to imposed change. Following initial denial, we feel anger (how dare they!), depression (it's all so hopeless...), and finally acceptance (ok, it's a done deal) with a view to the future (where do I go from here?).
How dare they!
The demise of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women "saved" several million dollars. The shutdown forestalls any future Council research on the impact of budget cuts on women's lives.
It's all so hopeless
Ok, it's a done deal
Where do we go from here?
To go back to the credit card analogy, if we decide to payoff the accumulated debt we will have to cut spending somewhere. For quite a few of us, charitable donations would be an early target. Less likely cuts would be library membership, tuition fees, or other spending that develops ourselves or family members.
Women, who are a majority of economically disadvantaged Canadians, are often portrayed - even by us - as victims, helpless against forces beyond our control. Isn't is a fundamental view that when we make a donation to help victims, it is a charitable act? Do we not also have a sort of mental limit on how much we give to charity? And do we feel some resentment if the victims do so well from our giving that they begin to approach our own economic well-being?
Government budget developers are likely influenced by similar perceptions. They may think of grants to women's groups as charitable aid to victims. If we can help them view women as another category of full citizens worthy of appropriate development investments, there could be an increase in allocated funding. There is currently a much larger pot of money for investments in a collective future (such as the information highway, for example) than for women's programs.
Attitude change takes time. We must be careful ourselves not to lean on the victim image when soliciting funds for our projects. But we will make a difference if we repeatedly assert that funding for development programs that build on the realities of people's lives is quite different from income support. Such funding should not come out of the government's "charity" allocation, intended for those unable to survive on their own; development funds belong in the long term investment category.
Pat Webb is an Ottawa-area resident and the Ontario director of CCLOW.