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The Role of Women in Winnipeg’s Community: An Insightful Conversation with Mary Scott

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Mary Scott, the co-founder of the Institute for International Women’s Rights – Manitoba, recently spoke about the critical role women play in the Winnipeg community. Her insights reflect the historical challenges women have faced, the progress made and the ongoing need for women’s voices in decision-making processes at all levels.

Mary began by highlighting the historical role of women under patriarchy, where men were the dominant decision-makers in communities. “When you look at the historical role of women, patriarchy was really the dominant force. Women were not seen as decision-makers.”

She noted the growing recognition that women are human beings with rights. “We are at a point where there is respect and understanding by everybody, but also a growing recognition of the important role women play as life-givers and caregivers.” She stressed that the world must recognize women as decision-makers. “Women have a unique role to play in society at the global level, the national level, and indeed at the local level.”

At the local level, Mary questioned whether enough is being done to include women in decision-making compared to other countries. “Are we doing enough? Can we do more? It’s so necessary to include diverse voices in the decision-making process,” she asserted. She stressed the importance of diversity in decision-making roles and supporting women through funding and inclusion. “Supporting women means ensuring they are part of the decision-makers, part of the staff, and that there’s a diverse range of women involved.”

She praised Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace, and Security but also asked what more can be done. “It’s wonderful to have an ambassador, but what more can we do? We need to listen to women who have that role and support their work,” Mary said. She also mentioned the importance of listening to international efforts by organizations like UN Women and ensuring that local departments responsible for gender issues are adequately supporting women. “Violence against women, support for education, and training for women are critical areas where we need to focus.”

Mary turned her focus to violence against women, particularly Indigenous women and girls. “This is something that affects me deeply. The information about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls came out 10, 15 years ago, and the lack of action was appalling,” she said. She criticized the slow response from authorities and emphasized the need for community support and political action to address this issue. “We know that Winnipeg was a hotspot for violence against women and girls. We have to show up as friends and supporters and express our horror to political leaders. This is wrong, and we need to take action.”

Mary highlighted the challenges faced by immigrant and refugee women in Winnipeg. She mentioned the caregiver program that allowed many women, particularly from the Filipino community, to immigrate to Canada.

“That caregiver program was a lifeline for many women. It allowed them to come, work for two years, and then bring their families over,” she explained. Mary pointed out the pressures these women face, from paying for their journey to Canada to organizing their children’s education and adapting to a new community. “The pressure is immense. They have to pay for the plane ticket, settle their kids into school, and learn about the community. It’s not just about their own adjustment but also about their family’s well-being.”

She stressed the importance of programs that support these women and foster connections with the Indigenous community. “Programs that bring women together, whether through technology or community gatherings, are vital. Learning about the positive values and history of Indigenous peoples is also essential.”

Mary’s conversation underscores the multifaceted role of women in Winnipeg’s community. From advocating for their inclusion in decision-making processes to addressing violence against Indigenous women and supporting immigrant and refugee women, her insights call for continued efforts to recognize and uplift women’s contributions at all levels of society.

“We need to ensure that women’s voices are heard and supported, whether in the local community or on the global stage,” Mary concluded. Through community support, political action, and inclusive programs, Winnipeg can strive to create a more equitable and supportive environment for all women.

– Yuliia Kovalenko, U Multicultural

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