Announcing the Canadian Feminist Disability Coalition

The Live Work Well Research Centre is thrilled to share the following interview with Siobhan Grant, Project Coordinator for the recently announced Canadian Feminist Disability Coalition. To learn more about this exciting project, click here!

Announcing the Canadian Feminist Disability Coalition

The Live Work Well Research Centre has recently announced the launch of the Canadian Feminist Disability Coalition! Can you tell me about what the project is and what it hopes to accomplish?

The Canadian Feminist Disability Coalition is a 30-month Pan-Canadian and systemic change project established by the Live Work Well Research Centre in partnership with civil society organizations and stakeholders. It works to build the leadership capacity and advocacy skills of diverse women and girls with disabilities to become agents of change for their rights in Canada.

What sparked the creation of the CFDC? Why is there a need for such an organization?

The Canadian government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the social, political, and economic exclusion and invisibility that diverse women and girls with disabilities face in Canada.

Diverse women and girls with disabilities are underrepresented in leadership, advocacy, and research in Canada. Their experiences and knowledge are often ignored or unprioritized in gender equality initiatives. This means that diverse women and girls with disabilities encounter high rates of unemployment, poverty, violence, and victimization, and also face significant barriers to education and healthcare.

This presents the CFDC with a crucial opportunity to address these significant gaps and issues, by developing policies and practices that empower and advance diverse women and girls with disabilities in leadership, participation, and advocacy across economic, social, and political spheres.

What are your responsibilities as Project Coordinator? What about the CFDC project inspired you to apply for the position?

As Project Coordinator, I work closely with the CFDC’s key partners and stakeholders to develop, organize, and implement various project activities, such as meetings, workshops, accommodation needs, and translation support.

The CFDC’s mandate is to design and implement policies and practices to increase women and girls leadership in democratic, civic, and public sectors. This is an important reason that inspired me to apply for the position; I wanted to work with a team whose mission is to generate policy change for people with disabilities.

Can you tell me about some of the partner organizations that are part of the Coalition? How was it decided who should be invited to be a part of the membership team?

The CFDC is collaborating with various civil societies, and community and advocacy stakeholders to advance gender equality for diverse women and girls with disabilities. Some of the key partners we are working with are the DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada (DAWN), the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) and the Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO).

As a national leader in community-based research and advocacy, DAWN Canada has a significant presence with policy makers and the public. It has a well-established network of women and girls’ groups that we will draw from as we oversee the Canadian Feminist Disability Coalition. DAWN Canada will lead the CFDC’s mission into a long-lasting network after the project’s funding ends in 2024.

In forming the CFDC project with various civil society, and community and advocacy stakeholders, we felt that it would be important to have diverse geographical, gender, and disability representation to achieve an equitable balance across the network. The CFDC project therefore strives for project leads, staff, and members to represent the different provinces of Canada, and also have diverse representation of those with disabilities regarding gender identity and sexual orientation, Indigenous and ethnic identity, housing status, citizenship status, and type of disability, including physical, mental, brain-related, sensorial, emotional, visible, invisible, and intermittent.

Why does the CFDC’s work matter? How do you hope to improve the lives and wellbeing of women and girls with disabilities through this project?

Women and girls with disabilities continue to experience significant gaps and barriers in policies and practices that restrict their access to quality care, and heighten the discrimination and violence they experience in Canada. The work we do through the CFDC is meaningful because we strive to design and implement policies and practices to build women and girls’ leadership and advocacy skills at the national and transnational level through regional hub activities, participation in national forums, and UN meetings. Representation of diverse women and girls with disabilities in these spaces will enable them to increase their visibility and enhance their authority, communication, and decision-making abilities, to share how they can be best supported in advancing inclusive policies and practices.

What can we expect from the CFDC project moving forward? Are there any exciting developments coming down the line?

We can expect that girls and women with disabilities will gain skills to advocate for themselves on a larger scale. Their participation and contributions in regional and national meetings will enable them to determine how they can be best supported in advancing inclusive policies and practices. 

Between 2023 and 2024, CFDC members will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities that will hone their skills. Workshops on digital storytelling and trainings in interpersonal and professional skills are among some of the activities we are currently developing with our partners.

It’s also worth mentioning that CFDC members will have the opportunity to virtually attend and present at the United Nations (UN) Conference of States Parties (CoSP) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the 2023 meeting.

How can people stay up-to-date on all the CFDC’s latest work?

People can learn more about the CFDC‘s latest work through the Live Work Well Research Centre’s newsletters and annual report, which you can sign up to receive here. As well, you can follow Live Work Well on Twitter @Live_Work_Well.

In the near future, the CFDC will be launching its website, where people/members can stay up to date on the CFDC’s latest work, as well as share information and resources.