How You Can Support Canadian Women Through The Pandemic

Photographed by Serena Brown.
The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on women throughout Canada. COVID has amplified pre-existing gender inequalities that have crushing effects on our jobs, mental health, and families. According to the Public Service Alliance of Canada, women “have experienced increased domestic violence, higher rates of exposure to the virus, higher rates of infection and death, and have borne the brunt of limited access to child care and caregiving programs.”
This is intensified for women who are further marginalized at the intersections of race, economic status, disability, age, and/or gender. Discrimination and systemic racism widens the gap for these groups and the disproportionate effects are playing out now, and unfortunately, for years to come
Knowing all this — and experiencing it — can make us feel hopeless. So in the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’ve put together a list of actions you can take to help. From signing up to be a mentor to helping keep women’s shelters open, read ahead for how to make a difference and for resources that support those in need.

How you can help now

Donate to a charity that supports women
Programs and services are struggling to meet women’s needs right now. By donating to a non-profit campaign such as the Canadian Women’s Foundation Tireless Together Fund, you’ll help providers with delivering critical services such as counselling through grants as well as childcare support, safety supplies, and the digitization of services for physical distancing. 
Sign a petition 
Systemic change is needed to make a real impact. Click here to ask government representatives to invest in gender-based violence services, childcare, and organizations that advance gender equality. 
Become a mentor
The Prosperity Project’s Matching Initiative lends a helping hand to small non-profit women’s organizations that have faced operational restrictions and funding disruptions due to the pandemic. The program introduces professionals from different backgrounds as volunteers to serve women in the areas of skills development, training, employment pathways, crisis counselling, and mental and physical health. Got mad accounting chops? Entrepreneurial know-how? Or maybe you’re a whiz at building resumes? If you’d like to donate your time and skills, click here
Help keep women’s shelters open
Shelters and transition houses are open during the pandemic, but continue to be at or over capacity during this time. You can help to keep shelter doors open by donating to Women’s Shelters Canada. For a list of helplines by province and territory, visit Shelter Safe
Support incarcerated women
The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Societies is a nation-wide network of 24 local groups that defend prisoners’ rights. This charity keeps an eye on the conditions of all six federal women’s prisons — which have worsened due to COVID-19 — and advocates to address human rights abuses against prisoners. To donate click here
Donate to a food bank
The pandemic has taken a major toll on food security, with rates highest among low-income single mothers, Indigenous communities, and homeless people. Click here to find national and regional food banks to donate to. 
Give your clothes and household goods to a worthy cause
Although donating to thrift stores has become tricky because of the pandemic, many charitable organizations are accepting donations with updated safety protocols, including Calgary-based Women In Need Society, where goods are being accepted at all of its locations, and Toronto social service organization, Fred Victor, which has 20 sites across the city. Tip: Be sure to call ahead to find out what they need the most. 
Tune into a podcast
Alright, Now What?, is a podcast by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, and for the third season, they’ve partnered with Equality Fund and Community Foundations of Canada for episodes that tackle the pandemic’s impact on women and feminist philanthropy. Click here to listen on Spotify.
Learn the virtual signal for help 
This simple one-handed gesture was created to address the surge in gender-based violence as a result of home isolation. The secret signal can be used during video calls to alert family, friends, or colleagues that an individual needs help and would like someone to safely check in. 

Resources for women in need

Mental health support
Wellness Together Canada is a Health Canada project that was launched in response to growing mental health concerns related to COVID-19. This resource is free to use and offers mental wellness programs you can either do on your own or with coaching via text, phone, and video counselling. 
If you’re struggling with substance abuse 
Click here for a government list of community, provincial, and national support for substance abuse. 
Indigenous helpline
Talk 4 Healing is an Ontario-based service that provides 24/7 culturally sensitive counselling, advice, and support to Indigenous women. Scheduled telephone counselling sessions and live support is available any time of day at 1-855-554-HEAL. For more COVID-19 resources, see this list by the Native Women’s Association of Canada
Immediate crisis support 
Crisis Services Canada is a nation-wide network of suicide prevention lines. If you are experiencing anxiety and in need of crisis support, call toll-free 1-833-4566 at any time or text 45645 between 4 p.m. and 12 a.m. ET. For COVID-19 resources related to anxiety and other mental health concerns, click here.

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