Direct services vs. research and advocacy

The Toronto Star has an article today with the headline “Tories slammed over the demise of women’s groups.” Status of Women Canada changed the rules by which groups qualify for funding from the government. Groups that provide direct services the funding will be favored while groups that do advocacy and research work will no longer qualify.

“[The government’s] position has been that there is a large enough body of research and statistics out there about obstacles to women’s participation in society – now is the time to put money into direct services such as job training assistance for new immigrants. It beefed up the funding envelope for such projects by $5 million in the last budget, bringing it to $15.3 million.”

The loss of National Association of Women and the Law is sad; it lobbied for the inclusion of women in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But people have to understand that hot issues change and the funding pot is a limited resource.

My personal beliefs are that although research and advocacy are clearly important, the hot issue in this century are the group of women who are farthest from equality and struggle the most: those in the lower class who would benefit most from direct services. More research would benefit a small percentage of the upper/middle class where the big companies and law firms they work for won’t want to be ‘the bad guys’ shown by the studies. The scrutiny of media and feminist scholars will surely bring attention to anything that is missed by the government or the private sectors and their internal sensors for Charter-sensitive issues. Direct services, on the other hand, will allow marginalized women such as immigrant women or poor women greater access to justice and equality. We need more grass-roots, training/educational services and these are person by person, social- economical- psychological changes that research and advocacy can’t touch directly. Perhaps things will change in the next ten years and the government will have to spend more money on research again, but for now, I think direct services is where the money should be spent.

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