Magazine article Women and Environments

WoPHE,-Women to Tackle Their Housing Issues

Magazine article Women and Environments

WoPHE,-Women to Tackle Their Housing Issues

Article excerpt

This one is different! We all know of flamboyant projects promising to house the poor, only to end as files collecting dust on the shelves of public institutions while keeping middle class professionals alive. Yet this project has managed to involve the very women most vulnerable in the Canadian social and housing scene: women from many different backgrounds, occupations, sexual orientations, unemployed, middle aged, disabled, poor, single and married moms with their children as well as women from Non-Governmental Organizations, technical and nontraditional trades. But for the gender bias, the means and ends of Women's Perspectives on Housing and the Environ ment (WoPHE) are unassuming: "share housing experiences, and better support each other to improve housing conditions, by sharing experiences, understanding why women's housing situations are the way they are, and developing alternatives." WoPHE is supported by the Housing Committee of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women and the Women and Environments Education and Development Foundation and had a grant from the Ontario Ministry of Housing.

WoPHE started in 1992 as participatory research. Small "study circles" and a weekend in a camp effectively accomplished the sharing of housing experiences. A video and "empowerment" table cloth attest to about 150 women and children speaking almost a dozen languages rallying around common housing concerns including affordability, safety, accessibility, quality, empowerment, appropriate design and maintenance. Simple low-cost transmitters helped participants translate and unify their voices be they Tamil, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese or English.

A year later the Home Independence weekend brought just as wide a range of women together. The women learned basic housing repair skills, basic knowledge of home electrical and plumbing systems, installation of appropriate safety equipment (i.e. locks and smoke detectors) as well as selfdefense course and cleaning without toxic substances. "I was quite afraid to start but then I found I could do it. It made me so happy," responded one woman. "I will not feel helpless," said another. Food; fun, theatre and dance enriched and reflected the experiences of participants. …

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