The Quebec Federation Oof Women is collapsing. I am shocked about it because when I peer into the future, I strongly believe it needs a strong nonpartisan feminist organization. The political chessboard lacks its queen, this most needed piece, the one who speaks on behalf of women, the one capable of criticizing public policies from a women's rights' standpoint. The Quebec of tomorrow desperately requires a strong provincial feminist advocacy group.
Having said that, the critics addressed to the Quebec Federation of Women in the media were relevant and substantial. It is true that this group struggles to federate the different feminisms and to reflect the diversity of women. As a matter of fact, QFW even repels and drives back many feminists since it often betrays shared values. Important changes to the QFW's structure and culture must occur to ensure its survival and for it to bear its responsibilities.
With so much work ahead, why not invest with another group? The women's movement does not have any other strong political vehicles. They do have an informal coalition, the Groupe des 13, but national women's groups are fighting hard to keep this structure working. It isn't funded and doesn't have the means to take over QFW!
Women's power to defend their rights has declined since the election of Phillipe Couillard in April 2014 because his fiscal policies and austerity measures have amplified gender-based discrimination in Quebec. Different researches and advocacy groups identify a related decline in women's living conditions. Not only have women getting poorer, they also increasingly struggle to afford food, education, and access social assistance, health services and housing. Furthermore, the barriers limiting the fulfillment of their rights are also isolating them in their homes which forces them to stay attached to their traditional gender roles. Fewer rights means fewer freedoms.
Most importantly, I want to emphasize that these are especially brutal for women who live at the intersection of different types of oppression: women on welfare, obese women, native women, women living with disabilities, racialized women, newcomers, undocumented women, immigrant women, poor women, women without a high school diploma, LBTQIA++ women.
Obviously, women can't count on the government to defend them from sexist discrimination. No matter if they're red or blue, regardless of their party affiliation, our elected officials favour a balanced budget and the interests of their business supporters at the expense of social and public health services, public schools and environmental protection. They bend with the international neoliberal wind and see it as an opportunity to enrich their political family even if it means less justice for us, the people.
Shortly, the Quebec Federation of Women has to rise from the ashes. It has to recover from the Harper cuts, from its loss of members and loss of hope. Rather than living in fear of what the future holds, feminists from all backgrounds and nationalities should get involved and take part with the Quebec Federation of Women so that it can become the phoenix reborn that the movement needs.
Valerie Gilker-Létourneau, Co-Co-ordinator of the R, the Quebec Network of Women's Centres Publicist and feminist, Valerie worked for a women's centre before she joined the R, aiming to develop its communications with a feminist approach.
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