Women’s forum to address housing needs

Former executive director of the Kelowna Women's Resource Centre says addressing women's needs fosters a healthier community

  • Apr. 9, 2014 6:00 p.m.

Housing will form the core topic in the upcoming Central Okanagan Women’s Forum, a space reserved for sharing ideas and creating action, organizers say.

Three UBC Okanagan master’s degree students have been tapped to present on their research into women, housing and marginalized groups in the Central Okanagan.

“What we’re looking to do is have more dialogues with women, like these forums, just to bring us all together and look at issues,” said Micki Smith, Central Okanagan Women’s Resource and Education Foundation.

The students all worked under Carlos Teixeira, an associate professor in geography at UBCO. Looking at seniors and housing, women and housing, and Latin immigrant women and single mothers and housing, the talks will be used to generate discussion on some of the broader shelter-related concerns the valley faces.

“There’s all this really good work donate at UBC and then it doesn’t get shared,” said Smith. “So we thought this would be great to get the information out.”

Housing has been a hot political topic for many years owing to the historically high cost of rent, low wages and lack of options for those living at the lower end of the income bar in B.C. While the 2007/08 economic crash brought temporary relief in the Okanagan, the rental rate is once again falling, making it difficult for those with a low economic status to secure an affordable home.

According to Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation projections released in the fall, the vacancy rate is expected to fall to 3 per cent this year—still above the ten year average rate for the area, but a full percentage point below the year before.

Focusing on how housing, or community building in general, affects women and children benefits everyone in society, Smith noted, as women tend to spearhead family development, raising the next generation. But the forum will also address women’s specific needs, such as access to power and leadership roles.

Gender representation in politics has been a hot topic in Canadian politics of late with the role gender has played in unravelling of several women’s political careers dominating headlines and pundits’ discussions.

Ensuring women have access to roles in local government, generally seen as the entry point to politics, has been on the The Canadian Federation of Municipalities agenda for several years. The national organization has set a goal of reaching 30 per cent representation—a target the United Nations has set as the minimal percentage of women required for government to reflect women’s concerns.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific identified three changes that occur in local communities once women gain leadership roles:

-there is a greater emphasis on social issues

-leadership becomes more inclusive, collaborative and consultative; and more tolerant of different points of view

-gender equality becomes a more tangible concept, improving the lives of women

At a national level, women currently represent just 26 per cent of councillors and 16 per cent of mayors, for an average of 24 per cent participation.

Aside from the conference, the Central Okanagan Women’s Resource and Education Foundation is working to develop a statistical profile of women within the Central Okanagan and an update on the project will be provided. Local sociologist Tina Marten is heading the research, which follows a similar community profile drawn up by the Kelowna Women’s Resource Centre in 1988.

The forum will be held Thursday, May 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Kelowna public library, 1380 Ellis Street. The event is free. Those interested are asked to register on Eventbrite.ca

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