Empowering Women group trying to eliminate barriers for women and Indigenous women

A local group is looking to identify and eliminate the barriers that stop women, especially Indigenous women and girls, from participating socially, economically, and politically.

The Bonnyville Friendship Centre’s Empowering Women group received a Status of Women in Canada grant to develop a strategic plan to tackle these issues facing women.

This two-year capacity building grant of just over $80,000 will help the working group achieve this goal.

Alania Sanregret, program manager at the Friendship Centre, said she hopes the group can outline some strategies by the time the grant money expires.

“We did believe that at that point, we would have really concrete solid ideas of what our agencies would be able to do,” said Sanregret.

Reaching out to municipal government like the Town of Bonnyville, and M.D. of Bonnyville in their work is another goal.

Over 20 women from partner organizations and businesses have been involved since the first meeting in November 2018.

They brainstormed the challenges, barriers, and strengths that women often face in society, said Sanregret, and then specified towards Indigenous women.

“Most of the time it’s not outright discrimination…what we want to kind of work on is changing those societal norms,” said Sanregret.

“What we want to do is make it a little easier for women and for especially Indigenous girls, and Two-Spirit people, who tend to be the most vulnerable people in our population to try and make things easier for them to move upwards, be more upwardly mobile.”

Sanregret said it’s twice more likely for Indigenous women to be homeless, will face violence, or have their children taken away than any other ethnicity or culture in Canada.

There are currently no programs that help get past these barriers, she said.

“One of the things we’ve been trying to do for the last two years is have a counselor on staff, even part-time, but we are unable to get the funding for that because we have mental health services here, even though they’re not as accessible to the people who truly need them.”

Alberta Health Services started providing workshops that deal with anxiety management, getting those good tools to be able to manage your own emotions, but they still can be difficult for people to access.

The group will meet once every two months and is actively recruiting members to improve services for Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirited people.

“I’m really hoping is after these two years we will be able to in our organization or another develop Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit programs, that we will have solid programs, where we will have excellent data management evaluation, and that we are we could show the value of the work that we’ve done and maybe get some visibly Indigenous people elected to become Premier of Alberta. That’s a long term goal.”