As a result of decades of deliberate systematic defunding of the women’s rights sector under previous governments, women’s organizations lost significant capacity to provide critical services and analysis in support of gender equality. These cuts resulted in fewer resources being available for service provision; reduced wages and benefits for employees of women’s organizations; and lowered capacity to participate in ongoing training, skills development, and community engagement to better understand and meet the needs of their communities. While investments in the sector under the Liberal government over the past five years has helped the sector recuperate some of its capacity, much of the funding received is tied to project delivery rather than core operational capacity, leaving organizations with little fiscal flexibility to weather crises such as the current pandemic. After months of uncertainty and ongoing challenges, the sector is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the economic and social fallout of the pandemic.
Many studies have shown that women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and experts have labelled the pandemic-induced recession a ‘she-cession’. While women’s organizations are integral in supporting and advocating for women in various situations and with various needs, the gendered impacts of the pandemic not only impact individual women but also impact our organizations, as organizations are struggling to stay in operation. The sector has not only seen a decrease in flexible funding, but with the majority of employees being women with some form of care responsibilities, organizations are losing precious staff capacity as women are dropping out of the workforce, unable to juggle work and care responsibilities.