Funding supports York project to advance gender equality in pandemic recovery

Serious Mature Women

A project out of York University that will advance gender equality in the social and economic response to COVID-19 is one of 237 projects to receive funding under Women and Gender Equality Canada’s $100-million Feminist Response and Recovery Fund.

“Creating Space: Precarious Status Women Leading Local Pandemic Responses” is a collaborative, two-year project that brings together five organized research units (ORUs) and six researchers representing five York Faculties, as well as 10 partners, working on issues of equity, diversity and inclusion to advance a feminist response to the impacts of COVID-19 through systemic change.

The project was awarded $667,609 and aims to centre precarious status women’s experiences to support self-determination and accelerate systemic change to reduce gender-based violence, promote workplace health and safety and increase economic security.

Associate Vice-President Research Jennifer Hyndman says the successful application was made possible through a groundbreaking collaborative effort. “Such collaboration across Faculties, schools, and disciplinary boundaries is unprecedented among the ORUs at York,” she said.

The community-based project will be led by Professor Luann Good Gingrich (director, Global Labour Research Centre; Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies) and Professor Heidi Matthews (Osgoode Hall Law School), the project’s co-principal investigators, along with five research directors: Professor Angele Alook (Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies); Professor Elaine Coburn (director, Centre for Feminist Research; International Studies at Glendon Campus); Professor Deborah McGregor (director, Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Languages; Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice; Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change/Osgoode Hall Law School); Professor Gertrude Mianda (director, Harriet Tubman Institute; Gender & Women’s Studies at Glendon Campus); and Professor Yu-Zhi Joel Ong (director, Sensorium: Centre for Digital Art & Technology; School of Arts, Media, Performance & Design).

“Our project will take advantage of this unprecedented moment of significant appetite for new ways of thinking and living together that are more just and sustainable,” said Matthews. “As devastating as the pandemic has been for women and gender-diverse individuals, particularly those from Indigenous nations and racialized communities, it has also pried open space to dismantle the otherwise rigid status quo structures that work to marginalize these groups.”

Logos for the organized research units: The Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diaspora; the Jack & Maie Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security; the Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts and Technology; the Global Labour Research Centre; and the Centre for Feminist Research
The ORUs supporting the project include (top to bottom, left to right): The Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diaspora; the Jack & Maie Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security; the Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts and Technology; the Global Labour Research Centre; and the Centre for Feminist Research

“Creating Space” involves six York ORUs – the Centre for Feminist Research, the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Languages, the Global Labour Research Centre, the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security, the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and Its Diasporas, and Sensorium: Centre for Digital Art and Technology – and 10 community partners representing female temporary foreign workers, asylum seekers, Indigenous women and undocumented frontline workers: ACORN Canada; Canadian Caribbean Art Stars Inc.; BC Employment Standards Coalition; Black Creek Community Health Centre; Feminist Alliance for International Action Canada (FAFIA); Kashe Dance; Migrant Resource Centre Canada; Nail Salon Workers Project; the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres; and The Ajumose Mentorship and Oversight Group of Ontario (Tamogo) Foundation. The project will also be supported by its international human rights law collaborator, the Global Legal Action Network.

The multidisciplinary team brings together expertise in labour, digital arts, international law and human rights, Indigenous legal traditions and knowledges, feminist and Indigenous methodologies, and migration and Black diaspora studies.

“We are committed to a collaborative approach that emphasizes relationships and mutual learning, and opening space for creativity and innovation to reimagine the legal and economic systems that create status insecurity for many women in Canada,” said Good Gingrich.

Funding for this project highlights York’s efforts in working to support gender equality during the COVID-19 recovery. Sara Slinn, associate dean research and institutional relations at Osgoode Hall Law School, said “Osgoode is very proud to be involved in this timely and important project.”

LA&PS associate dean research and graduate studies, Ravi de Costa, said the grant is a testament to the strength of social science and humanities research at York – not only in LA&PS, but across the University. He commended Good Gingrich and Matthews for putting together a “superb” group of researchers from five faculties.

“The research they will do in this project will provide a critical and largely missing understanding of the effects of the pandemic on some of the most marginalized members of society.”

The project will:

  • design collective, autonomy-focused, and locally rooted strategies to address economic insecurity, frontline workplace safety and systemic gender-based violence
  • launch a new human rights initiative to devise innovative legal arguments that disrupt dominant legal paradigms by supporting Indigenous-led self-determination
  • create a participatory, experimental multimedia digital framework to shift the public conversation and accelerate systemic change around gender and status precarity.

Good Gingrich and Matthews say they anticipate cross-Canada impact. Researchers and graduate students contributing to the project will work with partner organizations to build capacity and support mutual knowledge exchange. This work will shape transformative policy, innovative and critical strategies for legal intervention, and change the conversation on a national level.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Dec. 1, 2021.