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Justice at Work: Our Way In

Welcome to our new page for our exciting project to scale our 15-month Justice at Work project! The result of years of hard work on the part of many lone-mothers throughout BC? A mobilizing and organizing call to action!

We are happy to introduce Our Way In: The Justice at Work Pathway to Economic Security For Lone Mothers in BC.

Over the past two and half years the Centre for Family Equity carried out our Justice at Work for Lone Mothers in BC project, funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada within their feminist pandemic recovery mandate. Our project conducted participatory action research partnered with the University of British Columbia on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on low-wage lone mother workers and those reliant on fixed government incomes through the pandemic.

This March, we released our research report, No Way to Escape: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Low-Income Lone Mother Workers in BC. But our report is much more than a report; it is a call to action to impact the change we need to ensure the economic inclusion of marginalized lone-mother workers in BC. We are also happy to share that we have worked closely with the Justice at Work project community of peer researchers and participants to develop a plan to scale and amplify the Justice at Work project results and successes. We have held trainings and conducted a round of community engagement in the final phase of the project and we want to share a sneak peek of the story of how we reached our conclusions and the actions we'll take to find 'our way in'. 

Our new impact project has two components. Our Way In consists of a suite of policy recommendations that form a pathway to economic inclusion and security for lone-mother-led families in post-pandemic BC. But it is also an action and mobilizing project! Our Way In will address increased social isolation, scale and build on developed project leadership, and mobilize from our base of project participants in all regions of BC. Existing leaders will train and mobilize more leaders to form Regional Community Impact Committees in the Lower Mainland, Coastal, Northern, and Interior regions of BC to bring Our Way In to many policy and other stakeholders while building a training a durable organizing network of lone-mothers in BC.

The Our Way pathway of recommendations consists of four main components:

  1. Addressing Existing Vulnerabilities: Our recommendations to address the existing vulnerability that led to much economic and other harm to low-income families due to pandemic impacts. 
  2. Addressing the Needs of Low-income Lone Mother-led Families in a State of Emergency: Recommendations to safeguard vulnerable families with targeted measures in the face of any pandemic or other State of Emergency in BC.
  3. Mitigating Pandemic Impacts: Supporting well-being and recovery in families still hit hard by pandemic impacts.
  4. Removing Post-Pandemic Barriers to Labour Market Access: Addressing policy shifts to ensure access to training, education and feasible jobs, as well as systems and policies to support labour market inclusion for lone-mother-led families in BC.

Engaging Mothers Throughout BC

Justice at Work was not just a research endeavor; it was a commitment to understanding the nuanced experiences of low-income lone mothers across British Columbia in a project led and shaped by mothers themselves. We engaged research participants across the province with a survey, held six focus groups, and conducted one-on-one interviews throughout BC including in BC's Northern region.

 

 

Four objectives for the Our Way In impact project have been mapped out by our staff and researchers:

  1. Scaling Community-Led Mobilization: Empowering low-income lone mothers to lead the change through regional committees and leadership training.
  2. Implementation of Recommendations: Engaging regional stakeholders for policy shifts in all four change areas identified in the recommendations of the Our Way In report.
  3. Collective Impact: Lobbying for legislative change and intensifying collective impact.
  4. Grassroots Leadership: Establishing an ongoing advocacy network for Our Way In pandemic recovery and beyond.

Context of Inequality

At the heart of this project was the stark reality of lone mother poverty in BC. In 2020, the poverty rate for lone mother-led families exceeded 30%, over six times the rate of couple families. Indigenous lone mothers faced even higher risks, with a child poverty rate of 59% on reserves in 2020. The pandemic exacerbated these inequalities, especially for those engaged in low-waged precarious work.

Peer Researchers: The Heart of Our Project

Central to our success were our peer researchers - lone mothers who brought their lived experiences to the forefront. These researchers recruited and trained from diverse backgrounds and locations, shaped the research questions, conducted interviews, and facilitated focus groups. Their commitment to systemic change and the impact of the project on post-pandemic economic recovery in BC remains strong.

Trips to Victoria 

We took two trips to Victoria during the project. First, we held an in-depth research retreat in 2023 after we had collected our data to conduct analysis and identify recommendations and next steps. In February 2024 we traveled to Victoria again during BC Budget Week to present our research findings to the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and local stakeholders. A group of nine peer researchers delivered strong and engaging group presentations to policymakers and trained in presentation skills and knowledge mobilization tactics and strategies to bring Our Way In forward and map the next phases of the project.

  

 

Thank you!

We would like to thank the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction staff, the Ministry of Education and Child Care staff, and Minister Dean for the opportunity to present and meet about our research findings in Victoria. We express our gratitude to Dr. Lea Caragata, our UBC partner, and the UBC School of Social Work. We extend our gratitude to Women and Gender Inequality Canada for funding and support, the peer researchers, our project partners, and everyone who has been part of the Justice at Work journey. 

 

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I've been at the same job for almost 16 years. Last year I applied for another job internally which I really wanted. I got offered the job, but the new position would not accommodate my child care pickup which was changed to shorter hours due to COVID. So, I had to turn down the job. That was my first sort of ‘this is what being a single mom is going to be like’ moment. They wouldn’t let me change my schedule by half an hour.

Blakely, a lone mother of two

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