COVID-19 highlights need for women’s supports


Gender-based violence, unequal access to support and resources, and risks to economic well-being are just some of the many issues that have been, and will continue to be agitated for women in the midst of this global pandemic. 

Fortunately, United Way East Ontario’s Women United donors are making a difference in the lives of many women across East Ontario during COVID-19, in a variety of ways. 

In normal times, Community Action Grants are small investments by Women United members that support grassroots, resident-led initiatives. During COVID-19, these women-led initiatives in Ottawa’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods are adapting to support the unique needs of at-risk women through these difficult times.

Addressing food insecurity

Economic well-being and accessing nutritious food has become increasingly difficult for many women and their families during the pandemic. Many women have been pressured into choosing between staying in the workforce and caring for their families at home. With a reduced or nonexistent income and no access to childcare, many local women, especially single mothers, are struggling to make ends meet.

Fortunately, groups like the tenants’ circle at 725 Bernard Street, in partnership with the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre (RRCRC), have adapted their community cohesion programming to be more inclusive of residents’ needs during COVID-19. 

With support from a Women United Community Action Grant, the tenants’ circle initially planned to hold Lunch and Learns in their building. This would build better social cohesion, empower residents to lead community initiatives, and increase well-being with access to healthy food. The tenants’ circle has since implemented a new home delivery service for food, so none of the residents have to wonder where they’ll be getting their next meal during COVID-19.  

A resident leader says “the hope is that people will see that we care for each other. This program will help us build community and caring within our building, while providing meals to those who are experiencing barriers to accessing food.”

Digital literacy for newcomers

Many newcomer women struggle with financial instability and language barriers, putting them at an even greater risk of falling through the cracks during COVID-19. During the pandemic, keeping newcomer women well-connected and informed of the resources available to them is of the utmost importance to protect their health and well-being. 

The Manordale Women’s Social Group at the Nepean, Rideau and Osgoode Community Resource Centre pivoted their women’s drop-in activity to focus on delivering virtual workshops to women in Manordale during COVID-19. This includes building digital literacy within the community to help this transition, translating materials to reach women in their native languages, and providing valuable remote workshops on topics like parenting during a pandemic, accessing CERB, and building skills like cooking and sewing.

Now, the group is using their skills to give back to others during the pandemic: “After the COVID-19 crisis started, the Manordale Social Group was able to connect and work with other women groups in our catchment area” says Maryem Kreishan, community volunteer and program facilitator. “The group, along with other women groups from Parkwood Hills and Tanglewood, is taking the lead on a mask making project. The project will provide residents in those three neighborhoods with free masks.”

Staying active at home

“I look forward to this one hour every week where I can relax both physically and mentally, especially mentally during this pandemic.”

Many women across East Ontario have reported feeling isolated and in need of a friendly face. For many senior women who live alone, in-person community programs used to be their only social connection to others. 

To support senior women in their physical, mental and cognitive health during the pandemic, many organizations have switched to virtual programming. The South Nepean Women’s Group supported by  Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre have used their Community Action Grant to offer online yoga classes for residents. Through these classes, women and families can improve their mental and physical well-being, while staying connected to others in the community despite physical distancing requirements.

One participant expressed the positive impact the classes have had on their life: “I look forward to this one hour every week where I can relax both physically and mentally, especially mentally during this pandemic.”

Behind every woman are the women who have her back

Women United Community Action Grants are helping grassroots community groups provide safe, supportive, and educational spaces for local women, empowering them to have a sense of security and well-being for themselves and their families during COVID-19.

Interested in making a difference in the lives of local women? Members connect with a network of like-minded women who rally their support, expertise, and resources to lift up vulnerable women in our community.

By joining our local chapter, you can be part of an initiative that connects to a national and international movement. Globally, Women United includes more than 75,000 women across six countries and 165 communities.




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When folks have access to safe, affordable, and accessible housing, they have a much better chance of staying employed, going to school, feeding themselves and their families, and living more stable lives.

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