About CAWI

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City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) is a unique collaboration of women from diverse communities, organizations, and academia working with municipal decision makers to create a more inclusive city and promote gender equality.

What We Do:

Today, CAWI continues to promote and create systemic change by starting with concrete changes in our lives and in our city. To achieve this, we use participatory and creative processes that draws upon the strengths, cultural expression, values and knowledge that women across diversity have to offer.

We promote a democratic practice that engages in the electoral process and moves beyond it. It is a political approach that promotes a deep sense of belonging and ability to make a difference for the women of our community.

How We Do It:

Our areas of work focus on Equity and Inclusion, Making Votes Count and Facilitation for Change. Equity and Inclusion partners with the City of Ottawa and 5 other municipalities to consider equity and inclusion to ensure a city for everyone. Read more about the City of Ottawa's Best Practices. Next, Making Votes Count is a project that partners with the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres, as well as Action Forums and Deputations. Facilitation for Change provides capacity training for women from diverse communities to have a voice in City decision-making.

Why We Do It:

Women have a lot to contribute to quality of life in our city, especially women at the margins of society who have particular insights into what is needed to make our city a better place to live for everyone. For this reason, we change the city by working from the margins with those of us who have less power and privilege in society.

Women experience cities differently, and have specific concerns when it comes to aspects of city life such as housing, employment, public transit, violence and safety, childcare and access to decision making. For example, women are more likely to live in poverty, and still earn only on average 63.4 % (2004) of what men earn, and do more unpaid work in home and community. To see how this impacts women’s lives in all its facets visit a recent report by Statistics Canada, “Women in Canada – A Gender-based Statistical Report”.

The City of Ottawa, women’s groups, and community organizations have worked in partnership to begin to address these gender inequities and promote gender equality, which is beneficial for women, men, and for our local government as well.  Increasing the diversity of women in leadership, and keeping the needs of women in mind when developing policies and services, is essential to having quality of life in our cities. This means considering a multitude of gender equality issues like family responsibility, safety, sexual violence and income levels, as well as ensuring the full diversity of women are included.

Our History:

The City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) was established in 2004 to research best practices on how to ensure that concerns of women from diverse backgrounds are systematically considered in city decision-making. Research revealed that while there were some good practices in the city that addressed women’s specific needs, the City of Ottawa simply did not have the kind of information that would be necessary to take gender and diversity among women into account in a systematic way.

In February 2004, CAWI conducted a survey of women’s organizations: Taking Women Into Account. The survey revealed that most women in these organizations did not understand how city government works, felt that they had little influence and doubted municipal decision makers would understand their concerns as they did not see women from their communities represented among them. Based on this finding, the first women’s Civic Participation Training was organized to enable women from diverse communities and organizations to make their views known to City Hall.

In June 2004, City Council passed a motion to formally recognize City for All Women Initiative as a city-community partnership. It was tasked with conducting research to identify best practices in other cities, nationally and internationally, on inclusion of the full diversity of women in planning and decision-making.

In May 2005, CAWI reported its findings to the Health and Social Services Standing Committee. A subsequent motion directed the Community and Protective Services Department to work with CAWI “to ensure that the goal, of implementing practices and strategic plans that increase gender sensitivity and enhance gender equality, is realized.”