Many women on the Coast are struggling, and the first phase of the Progress Plan has discovered why.
Through community conversations and surveys during the past three months, the Progress Plan has gathered responses from nearly 400 women who point to four main issues negatively impacting their economic well-being.
"Women are least satisfied with transportation, their income situation, their care situation - that's care for children and dependent adults and themselves - and it's all linked together by community belonging," said Progress Plan project manager Michelle Morton. "So if you're very alone because of lack of transportation or if you're very alone for lack of friends or lack of information or lack of social supports or any of those things, chances are your income is struggling as well, so all of these things are interconnected. If you lack one of these, then you're really struggling on the Sunshine Coast."
Morton and project consultant Betty Baxter heard many first-hand accounts of hardships endured by local women during their three months of information gathering.
"The one story that stuck for me was a woman who had 10 to 12 hours of work a week, had three kids in elementary school and her husband was waiting for disability insurance. So she hasn't got enough money to survive. That's their life story right there," Baxter said. "We've probably heard face-to-face a dozen or more of those kinds of stories."
The stories of struggle were so moving that Baxter and Morton decided to incorporate some of the comments into a live performance that will kick off a Make Progress Workshop slated for Jan. 16 at the Sechelt Indian Band Hall.
All the information gathered to date will be presented and small working groups will be formed to brainstorm ideas for change. The workshop will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. starting with a coffee social and ending with lunch being served.
Morton and Baxter hope many interested Coasters will come out to take part.
"Our plan for the forum is to actually have the community help write the plan," Baxter explained. "Now that we know the issues, we're structuring the forum around the issues so we can have people who are particularly passionate about, say, childcare or about transportation be at that table with others and actually talk about ideas. Then we can get priorities from that and we can structure it as to what would require a collaboration or partnership or what would be a small project or what would be a huge project and put it in the plan, but it will actually be the voice of the community in the plan."
Once completed, the Progress Plan will contain specific action items or pilot projects that need to be put in place to address the four areas of concern.
"At this community workshop, we want to focus on what we can do right here to make a difference," Morton said.
The Progress Plan was launched last year in an effort to gather information and create projects to improve women's economic well-being on the Sunshine Coast.
The plan is funded by the Status of Women Canada and is run in partnership between the Sunshine Coast Community Resource Centre and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society.
The nearly $294,000 in funding for the project will run out in the winter of 2015.
To find out more or to sign up for the upcoming Make Progress workshop, see www.progressplan.ca. You can also connect with the Progress Plan on Facebook.