"Our purpose" has included over the last ten years: co-sponsorship of a conference in 1982 on women and microtechnology (with CRIAW and NAC); production of a policy model for women's adult basic education and a study on adult basic education in Canada; organization of a conference in 1984 on educating for the next decade; initiation, in Regina, of the very first "bridging" program for women in Canada; creation and development of the Women Interested in Successful Employment program in St. John's; production of a study on women's education and training policy in Canada; and research into issues such as literacy, student loans, distance education and women learning from art. Today, partly through CCLOW's own work and partly as a result of rising awareness of the problems women face, new areas are opening up and new work is waiting to be done.
"I would like to see more about how women's learning is different," says Joan. 'I think we can build on Carol Gilligan's work and the new information about women's learning has to be built into the school system, right from early childhood through to the university and training programs. Learning is not necessarily hierarchical like the male model where the teachers have all the answers and all you have to do is sit down and take notes. I hope CCLOW can shed some light on the research and reading in this area and also ask why we have to be concerned with women's learning and not just everybody's learning."
Will women's learning ever be considered as part of the larger picture, as an element of education generally? In ten years from now, will there still be a need for a group that focuses specifically on women's learning?
"I would like to say no, that the learning needs of women and men will be equally recognized and integrated," answers Mairi. "But there's always a new generation and each one has to go through some of this. I work with young women and many of them are very conservative. Even girls who are children of single mothers aren't necessarily planning a career. They still think they'll work for a few years, get married and live happily ever after. Even the young men whose mothers and sisters are in responsible positions and making a contribution to the community, either in voluntary work or in work that is paid, still think that looking after the home and the children and doing the church or community work is all the responsibility of women. It will take a while for those attitudes to change."
And it is difficult to predict what issues will surface as CCLOW develops over the next ten years.
"Things we are interested in now we didn't talk much about ten years ago," says Mairi. "I feel very optimistic about the future and I think as long as I hold on to that positive attitude, I'd be glad in ten years to talk about issues again. Joan and I both have great enthusiasm for the organization but I'm glad Joan mentioned the other women who have been involved because we are just two examples of so many."
Joan Brown Hicks is currently Coordinator of Community Services with the Halifax City Regional Library and Mairi Macdonald is enjoying her early retirement from Mount Saint Vincent. Christina Starr is the Managing Editor of Women's Education des femmes.