Sarah Davis, Executive Director
This International Women’s Day I can’t help but reflect on the disproportionate impact of the last 2 years on women. Now, more than ever, it is time to heal and recover. We need to heal as a community, with equality and dignity. There is no doubt, that every person in Ottawa has been impacted by COVID19 and the recent occupation of our city. The stark reality is that the impact disproportionally affects women, especially the women and gender-diverse individuals at Cornerstone.
The night before the convoy arrived in Ottawa, I wept in my living room, with my two little girls fast asleep in the next room, I wept with fear for every woman that is a part of Cornerstone. Anxious that their gender and their vulnerability would create targets on their backs to be revictimized by the misogynist views present in fractions of the occupation. The streets lined with trucks – reminding the woman in need of shelter and safety of the trauma they’ve experienced. Reminding that woman who was human trafficked that she is under surveillance; the woman that fled war-torn area retriggering her PTSD; or the trans woman that her identity is not safe in crowds. The increased misogyny, the fear of walking down the street, even in the daylight; the weaponizing of the women’s safe space and turning the women into prisoners; the cycle of abuse happening on our doorsteps… and those fears becoming a reality in a place she needed reprieve and support.
The most recent events have continued to highlight the undue hardship experienced by women due to the pandemic. Women’s hidden homelessness is much less hidden now due to the pandemic and we are powerless in our ability to meet the new demand for emergency housing. Women being isolated and “locked down” with abusers perpetuates the cycle of violence. Women losing work, autonomy, independence, and years of activism towards equality. And just because we haven’t been through enough; having the convoy invade the one thing we had left to keep us safe – our home.
Women need to recover, our Cornerstone Community needs to recover, and Ottawa needs to recover. We need to create more space specifically for women and gender-diverse individuals in our community, we need more affordable and supportive housing specifically for women. Community services are the backbone of Ottawa and we need our community to carry the voice and experience of the women to move us into recovery.
The last two years, and more so the last month, have been nothing less than traumatizing for the women at Cornerstone and utterly exhausting for staff members, who continued to show up for vulnerable women, their families, and their communities throughout this overly exhausted and under-resourced care economy. It is now time for women to recover, heal, and be heard – and this we cannot do without our community behind us each step of the way.
This international women’s day, let’s work together to reinvest in our economy through a gender-based lens. That means supporting women-dominated sectors like social services, hospitality, and health care. Let’s rise-up and do the hard work of self-care, in making housing a human right and creating more supportive and affordable housing in our city, and let’s continue to advocate for equality for women and LGBTQ2S+ communities. We need our community to join us in healing and recovery.