Father’s Day 2021 was bittersweet. And so is July 1. But, I’m smiling from my heart with memories of my exceptional father whose life on earth was ended by the effects of Alzheimer’s disease seven years ago on July 1. I am eternally grateful to my mother for choosing her life partner to be my father. A teacher by profession, my father as a parent, taught by example. What stands out most is my father’s respect for women, seeing them as equal to men and having the right to forge their own paths in life. He encouraged and supported my mother in every area of her life. He never hesitated to show his indignance for irresponsible fathers and men who abused women.
Both my parents were clear and consistent in the expectations they set for my sister and me to be people of integrity first, acquire a good education and become financially independent. That said, we were to always find ways to help other people get ahead in life.
Over the years, I have gained a deeper understanding of the social relevance of my parents’ teachings.
In the absence and lack of educational opportunities, some people have limited choices to advance themselves economically. To survive, some people are forced to make compromises, and cannot live with integrity.
I saw this first-hand in my volunteer work in the prison system.
Several inmates recounted the hardship that their mothers had to endure at the hands of abusive fathers and step-fathers. The trade-off for conjugal abuse and domestic violence was the economic benefit, albeit meagre, that their mothers settled for, because of the limited education or skills that made them jobless or forced them to settle for low-paying jobs. Living in impoverished and strife-filled homes led the inmates to commit misdemeanors and petty crimes and to behave aggressively throughout their adolescent years. This set the stage for serious crimes of drug dealing, violence against women and murder which many of them committed in later years.
I am convinced that domestic violence perpetuates the cycle of poverty and contributes to creating criminals.
Another serious consequence of conjugal violence is femicide.
Since mid-June, there have been 12 femicides in Québec since the start of 2021.
It can be argued that passing stricter laws, locking away criminals and creating more shelters and services for abused women are ways in which women and the society can be kept safe.
While I agree with the rule of law and imprisonment to protect the society, I believe that new approaches are needed to prevent crime, particularly against women.
Women who are confident in their ability to live the quality life of their choosing, are more likely to attract partners who will treat them with respect in healthy, mutually supportive relationships.
Integrating personal development in education and advocating pay equity are two recommended courses of action that will improve the condition of women.
- Integrate personal development in education and skill-training programs for women and girls, particularly those who are at risk of being exploited, impoverished, and abused. Personal development must involve coaching to develop traits that support self-esteem, such as self-acceptance, goal setting, assertiveness, and resilience. Most importantly, women and girls should be exposed to a wide range of professional choices, mentorship, and entrepreneurial opportunities.
- Advocate and address pay equity, particularly in lower paying jobs and sectors where employees are predominantly women. Pay equity contributes to the improvement of the economic condition of women. Financial independence reduces the likelihood of women to remain in abusive relationships with men.
Take Action: Use your position of influence to make a difference
Support organizations that provide employment training programs for women. Go beyond financial support. Provide mentorship, counselling, internships, and programs that help women and girls develop their self-esteem.
Advocate assertiveness training for girls and women to speak up and effectively resist unwanted physical contact and advances from boys and men. This type of training is best delivered in the school system, where boys and girls learn together.
If you are in a leadership position or a member of the board of directors, advocate establishing equitable pay scales, annual or biennial reviews and remuneration targets that are aligned with corporate performance.
Women gain self confidence and self-esteem when they are empowered to make their own choices, to use their talents and to participate in the economy and in healthy partnerships.
Further reading & resources
UNICEF: Girlforce. Skills, Education and Training for Girls Now.
Report suspected domestic violence
Government of Canada Resources
Support these organizations’ training programs for women
YWCA Montreal / Y des femmes Montréal