New Directions regularly refers clients to other social agencies and makes them aware of their options. Women, particularly mothers, need all the help they can get. Bridging programs facilitate an improved self image; they offer hope and an end to isolation. When life for a mother improves, it means a better life for her children.
In all the recent publicity about child poverty in Canada, little has been said about their mothers. Awesome statistics demonstrate a consistently worsening situation. These ill clad, malnourished children, with little hope, don't live in isolation. The vast majority live in households headed by a sole-support mother.
Judge Rosalie Abella, Chair-woman of the Ontario Labor Relations Board, has said: "It's clear that expectations about the role of women are so deeply rooted, that without active and persistent intervention, the subtle barriers women experience will remain stalwartly erect." Forums like ACTEW and CCLOW help women to come out of isolation and educate each other. It is not in women's best interest to observe the class barrier erected by a patriarchal society.
This same society is very blind to the economic plight of its women with children.
The difference between 1986 and 1949, when The Second Sex was published, is the end of women's isolation. Simone de Beauvoir was an extraordinary voice speaking out of the polite, stifling silence of traditional society. Today women have found a voice and are breathing life into the notion of equality. Together we are insisting on some basic changes in the national distribution of wealth.
We do not want bigger handouts to perpetuate dependency. We want access to affordable housing; improved training allowances; an end to restrictive criteria for access to training allowances; an end to discrimination that places different cultural, racial, and economic groups in competition for slender, resources. We need improved and increased subsidized day care facilities, to give sole-support mothers an equal opportunity in the marketplace.
In short, women want a fair share of the pie they helped bake. As Simone de Beavoir has said: "In a properly organized society, where children would be largely taken in charge by the community and the mother cared for and helped, maternity would not be wholly incompatible with careers for women. . . ." (the Second Sex)
My thanks to the following women for sharing their experience and insights with me:
Christie Jefferson: Opportunity of Advancement
Mary Campbell: Focus on Change
Elizabeth Bohnen: West End Machining
Sandy Kinsman: Times Change
Sherrill Walker: New Directions
Cherril Baker: Sole-Support Mother's Program
Claire Hogenkamp is a graduate of Columbia University, and holds a Master of Fine Arts Degree, specializing in communications. She taught at Adelphin University in New York, while managing her own communications consulting firm. She returned to Canada with her young daughter to pursue a less stressful lifestyle. Employed as Public Relations Coordinator by West End Machining, Claire is a member of ACTEW.