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A conversation of strength, compassion, and hope


A year into the pandemic, we’ve seen how COVID-19 disproportionately affects women. Between February to September of 2020 alone, there were approximately 350,000 jobs lost and women accounted for 85 per cent of those losses. Throughout COVID-19, women have also been at higher risk of gender-based violence, food insecurity, and exposure to COVID-19 infection. For some, these risks were even further exacerbated by their race, culture, age, and income. 

On International Women’s Day, the same week as the anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 arriving in our communities, Women United hosted “A Conversation with Dr. Vera Etches,” powered by Accenture. Dennise Taylor-Gilhen, United Way East Ontario’s VP of Community Impact, spoke with Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health about leading with compassion, community-led recovery, and women driving the response to COVID-19.

“I was surprised by the speed at which we saw the inequity, and how quickly what we thought was stable and more equitable employment for women, was undone. The disproportionate job loss for women was disturbing.”

Working together

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Women United has been supporting the most vulnerable women in our communities as they navigate new and worsened challenges. Even though there is still plenty of work to come, conversations like these give us the insights and inspiration required to continue on the path towards a ‘she-covery’

When we plan for a stronger future beyond COVID-19, Dr. Etches says that we must ensure we have the voices of women from all backgrounds at the table.

“Making room for more women voices and diverse voices is going to be key. There are traditional channels where people are setting up committees and task forces on recovery. It will be important to check and see who’s participating and consider if the community is represented well enough.”

Small actions, big impact

Dennise and Dr. Etches, who are both members of Women United, highlighted how important grassroots, women-led initiatives can be in building stronger communities through the pandemic and beyond. Members of Women United have the opportunity to invest in programs and initiatives that support local women and move the needle on issues that directly impact their day-to-day lives.

Dr. Etches suggested that small acts can make big ripple effects in our communities. Something as simple as making a phone call to check in on the women in our lives could ensure that a friend, colleague, or neighbour feels safe and supported.

It takes all levels of government, frontline services, and above all, concerned and engaged members of the community to advocate, raise awareness, and pool their resources to ensure pandemic responses are equitable and effective.

Women are leading this response, and we must continue centring the voices of women in order to build a better future for everyone.

“We can’t stay static, we have to adapt. We see the needs of the population changing and we have to change our supports, our policies, and our approaches.”

The pandemic and its social effects are devastating for many people, and women often feel its weight the most. But, the end is in sight, and Dr. Etches made sure to highlight some bright spots for the months ahead: 

Make a measurable impact and become a member of Women United today.




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