Three women laughing, as they sit at a table with their computers

3 Cortes Island Projects receiving $40,000 to advance gender equality

Three Cortes Island projects are about to receive a $40,000 grant to advance gender equality. This is part of a $3.4 million collaboration between the Community Foundations of Canada and the Equality Fund supported by the Government of Canada. 

Manda Aufochs Gillespie, Executive Director of the  Cortes Island Community Foundation, explained, “We were able to partially fund three different projects. Those include our Women’s Centre, which everybody knows, runs with very little funding and a real bootstrap mentality, like ‘we’re gonna get it done.’ So it’s going to be a little bit of funding for supporting their work. The other really exciting project that I hope is going to make a major difference in many families’ lives is the Playschool expansion, so that there’ll actually be almost full-time childcare available on Cortes for the first time ever. The third one is basically an intergenerational helping hands project being put forward by the Family Support Services of the CCHA (Cortes Community Health Association).”

Boy playing in the forest – Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

“This was our first time participating in one of these community foundations of Canada Federal Government projects. We have already made our recommendations. The recommendations have been accepted, and these different organizations are just now getting their announcements that they’re accepted. They will sign a contract with the Community Foundations of Canada and the gender equity pilot program, and then their money is not released until 2023.” 

Mark Spevakow, Chair of the Cortes Foundation: “We opened up the portal on our website in November 2022. That was when the community organizations were able to apply to receive funding through that grant.” 

Manda Aufochs Gillespie: “The gender equity fund is a pilot that the Cortes Island Community Foundation got to participate in because we had one board member who stepped up enthusiastically when I said, ‘Hey, is there anyone who’d be willing to go through two years of training to make sure that we are deeply understanding the ways that ,as a community foundation, we can address equity, particularly as it relates to issues of women, two spirit, gender queer etc, people in our community, and making sure that everything we do as a foundation is from an equity based lens.’ We had a board member who stepped up and has been participating in this education and bringing some of that education back to us as a foundation and back to me as staff.  In turn we got to play ball with this gender equity pilot fund. When I was filling out even the expression of interest, there wasn’t a category for a foundation as small as ours. So I wrote in a special request that even though we did not have the kind of millions necessary to invest in with a gender lens understanding, et cetera, that we be able to participate. They said ‘yes,’ and we got to participate in this fund, which brought $40,000 into our local community to Cortes to give two different nonprofits who were helping to address this gender equity gap.”

Business people applauding – Photo by tec_estromberg via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

“I think they’re allowed to claim expenses all the way back from when they got actual approval. They’ll be able to claim expenses back until maybe almost November of 2022.”

She stressed the specialness of ‘being able to participate with the big guys’ and obtain this opportunity for Cortes.

Manda Aufochs Gillespie: “The problem with equity related funds is that nobody really bothers thinking about the small little places and the small little organizations and the small little communities because it doesn’t look good on anyone’s books other than someone in a small community. Like who cares if you’ve reached 500 additional people or something like that when bigger foundations and bigger organizations are reaching thousands and thousands, but we care, right? We care on Cortes! It’s been years that our women’s center has struggled to find funding. Years and years of people talking about how important it is for people, but particularly for women to access reliable childcare. This is a huge issue!”

“Everybody knows what a huge issue it is to women being able to seek additional education, to find meaningful employment, women especially. Also for those who sit at a poverty line for being able to rise a little bit further out of poverty. Nevertheless, we have never been able to make a go of it on Cortes, and a lot of it just simply has to do with financials and how difficult it is to make numbers like that work, particularly for the first few years of anything new, anywhere, but certainly in a small community.” 

Top image credit: Three women at work – Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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