NWAC’s vision is to end all poverty for Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people. This includes acquiring all the necessary supports, services and funding necessary to empower Indigenous women and end poverty.
The adverse conditions of colonization and the current paternalistic top down government approaches have created an environment where Indigenous women are politically disenfranchised and economically marginalized. This means Indigenous women are excluded from decision-making positions and forced into financially vulnerable positions, which poses further challenges to economic and social development.
Decades of research around the world has proven an important connection between access to culture and poverty reduction. Poverty, especially for Indigenous women, means being vulnerable to: violence, the lack of autonomy and access to services. Poverty is social disconnection, which is why cultural identity and social inclusion are absolutely necessary to poverty reduction.
According to the 2006 Census, more than 37% of Indigenous women, compared with 17% of non-Indigenous women, were living in poverty.1 Many Indigenous women live in invisible poverty. This includes food insecurity, lack of reliable health care, presence of fear in accessing services, low wages and social exclusion.
Women living in poverty are especially vulnerable to domestic violence because their financial instability makes it difficult for them to escape violence at home. This can lead to Indigenous women and girls being sexually exploited or going missing or murdered. We know from the National Inquiry’s Final Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that this is an immense and devastating trend in Canada.
In 2017, NWAC conducted an engagement on poverty reduction through surveys, round tables and grassroots engagement sessions. Survey participants identified a lack of access to land, water, cultural supports, and social services such as mental health services and housing—yet all of these are necessary parts of building resiliency and reducing poverty for Indigenous women. During the round table discussions, Indigenous women leaders identified providing Indigenous-centred quality services as key to reducing poverty. Grassroots Indigenous women echoed these recommendations and added that there is a need to take a holistic approach that values the unique experiences and expertise each First Nations, Métis and Inuit woman possesses.
Much of this was taken into account when NWAC started planning for the new Social and Cultural Innovation Centre, which is currently under way. The centre will include Indigenous specific supports and services as well as a Resiliency Centre and a boutique for Indigenous women entrepreneurs to sell their products.
NWAC and government agencies must continue to collaborate to draw on the strengths and knowledge of Indigenous women to build effective and culturally centred poverty reduction services and programs.
- Increase food security and sustainability projects in communities, including gardening, access to affordable healthy foods and traditional food gathering.
- Empower Indigenous women in their fields of passion and support Indigenous women business owners, especially women in northern and isolated communities.
- Policies must be proactive in providing culturally appropriate services and programs to prevent violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and their families.
- Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. “Aboriginal Women in Canada: A Statistical Profile from the 2006 Census” Retrieved from: https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/DAM/DAM-INTER-HQ/STAGING/texte-text/ai_rs_pubs_ex_abwch_pdf_1333374752380_eng.pdf