“We must open doors and we must see to it they remain open, so that others can pass through.”

Rosemary Brown, the first African-Canadian member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.

Our vision

A safe and equitable city where residents and communities are empowered, engaged, and thriving.

Our mission

CAWI works alongside women of diverse lived experiences and community organizations to build their knowledge, skills and momentum to collectively advocate for economic, political and social justice.

CAWI works with decision-makers and partner organizations to advance public policies and practices that make Ottawa a more inclusive and caring city.

In the spirit of reconciliation with the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island, we strive to work with an inclusive and equitable lens that aligns with our mission and values, we seek to decolonize structures and systems, and we work to support self-determination.

Our work and priorities are led by the community for the community. We listen to community voices, centre their truth and wisdom, and ensure they are heard in public policy arenas. Everyone has a role to play at CAWI, and there are ample opportunities for members to build confidence and skills and participate meaningfully.

We work in partnerships to bring about change. We learn, facilitate and design together with a commitment towards collective participation. This means members, facilitators and staff are engaged and invested in both individual and collective success. Everyone has something to learn and something to offer.

We welcome all identities and lived experiences, and seek to achieve a truly inclusive future for all by addressing systemic inequities. We are thoughtful about approaching work with an anti-oppression and intersectional lens and creating inclusive spaces and learning environments. We centre the voices of those experiencing marginalization and uphold lived experience as valid truth and valuable expertise.

We approach our work and relationships with compassion, respect, and openness for each other. our experiences, our identities, our perspectives, and our work is grounded in the feminist ethic of care. Our spaces are friendly and warm environments where we support one another and build friendships that persist.

Change needs to happen at all levels: individual, group, community, institutional and systemic. As we work for change at the systemic level, internally we are consistently reflecting on ourselves to nurture our growth.

CAWI media interview

How intersectional feminism drives us

Intersectional feminism describes how overlapping identities (such as gender, race, language, class, ability and sexual orientation) impact how people experience oppression, power and discrimination.

You may be wondering about our name – the City for All Women Initiative. CAWI started out with a focus on women. But as intersectional feminists, we want to make Ottawa better for everyone. This means lifting up people at the intersections of various forms of oppression. Our focus therefore includes women, girls, non-binary and gender-non-conforming people.

Our work is intersectional in many ways. For example, our advocacy on the City’s Official Plan in 2022 brought about language changes that’ll result in more equitable policies. We also developed an Intersectional Feminist Recovery Toolkit for municipalities.

We want intersectional feminism to shape not just our work but how we work. As a team, we’ve committed to shaping our internal structures and systems around our values of intersectionality, decolonialism, anti-racism, anti-oppression and grassroots inclusion.

How CAWI was born

CAWI was founded in 2004. Our aim? To research best practices for ensuring that city decision makers systematically consider the concerns of diverse women. Our findings? We saw some good practices, but concluded that the City of Ottawa didn’t have the kind of information it needed to systemically consider gender and diversity among women. Read about our first year as an organization below.

February 2004
CAWI conducted a survey of women’s organizations, Taking Women Into Account. We found that most women in these organizations didn’t understand how city government works and felt they had little influence over it. They also doubted decision makers would understand their concerns, as women from their communities weren’t represented among them. Our response was to organize CAWI’s first civic participation training for diverse women.

June 2004
City Council passed a motion to formally recognize CAWI as a city-community partnership. We were tasked with finding best practices in other cities for including the full diversity of women in planning and decision-making.

May 2005
We reported our findings to the Health and Social Services Standing Committee. A subsequent motion directed the Community and Protective Services Department to work with us on practices and strategies to enhance gender equality.