While the COVID-19 pandemic was no longer “new” in the 2021/2022 year, it continued to impact our participants, our organization, the non-profit sector and society at large.
“The NYWC group facilitators were knowledgeable and showed that they listened and really cared. The topics were exactly what I needed to get my process going for my healing, learning and becoming a stronger, confident woman. ‘I am enough’ are the three strong words that I live by now.”
– NYWC group participant
Women were particularly hard hit this year as new COVID-19 variants emerged and Toronto business and school closures lengthened. Already disproportionately placed in lower-paying, service roles, many women lost their jobs or had to work in conditions that put them and their families at risk. Women’s unpaid care work increased as daycares closed, schools moved to remote learning and older people in lockdown needed additional support. Stress, social isolation and mental health issues increased for women and men, along with an exponential rise in gender-based violence, especially domestic and intimate partner violence. As a result of COVID-19 restrictions, many women were trapped in their homes with their abusers. These challenges – along with the inspiring resilience and strength of so many NYWC participants – motivated our team to create vital new programs, despite working remotely from home. North York Women’s Centre has been supporting women for 32 years, and we knew that in this year, participants needed us more than ever.
Our mission to empower women and advance equality spurred us on as we continued the online version of our Women’s Empowerment Series, weekly Virtual Women’s Lounge meetings and one-to-one support via telephone and Zoom. These efforts took on heightened meaning and value for our often isolated participants. We also hired two new full-time NYWC staff positions to assist with those programs, as well as two important new offerings:
- The STEPS to Work program provided pre-employment support for women to explore better, more sustainable work options; and
- The Empowered Migrant Mothers Program offered community and assistance for mothers who are new to Canada. The program built their social network and knowledge of available resources at a time when they were often alone and struggling to parent children doing remote learning.
Reconnecting women to themselves and each other.
NYWC’s virtual programming played an enormous role in alleviating isolation this year, as did our commitment to increasing digital access for marginalized women. Building on our success with the Tech-Savvy, Empowered Older Women’s project, we introduced a tablet-lending library so that women facing digital barriers could borrow a data-enabled device to access support. We also enhanced NYWC’s digital presence to reach more women, including relaunching NYWC.org, boosting our social media presence and increasing our newsletter frequency.
While grateful for the benefits of technology, North York Women’s Centre is also cognisant of its challenges. Our awareness of the safety, security and privacy risks of remote service delivery led to the launch of the Ending Gender-based Violence by Strengthening the Digitization of Services project, for example. This three-year initiative will support service providers to deliver services safely and help women make informed decisions when reaching out for help. Like many other organizations, we also pivoted to support NYWC team members who were working remotely while dealing with increased pandemic stress. Program delivery remained a priority, however some rebalancing was required to ensure that staff and volunteers had frequent opportunities to connect and refocus. We also started to think about restoring in-person work and services at the end of the fiscal year, rearranging and renovating our office and program space so that our staff and clients could return safely.
NYWC’s Board of Directors kept governance and oversight strong, with a focus on maintaining key funding relationships to support core programs, governance on the strategic plan, and working on key policy updates, board recruitment and financial oversight. At monthly virtual meetings and our online full-day retreat in May, we developed tactical plans to drive improvements in membership, engagement, and volunteerism to deepen connections for staff, volunteers, members and directors, as well as the women we serve. We have implemented some plans already and are on target with further efforts this year. None of this would be possible without Executive Director Iris Fabbro – now entering her 25th year with North York Women’s Centre. The Board is grateful for her savvy operational plans and collaborative approach, which have kept NYWC strong and resilient over the years.
We are grateful and proud.
Our generous funders and donors saw us overcoming the year’s challenges and responded with additional funding, flexibility in how funds could be used, and grace in reporting expectations and deadlines. That kindness enabled us to assist more women while sustaining fiscal balance.
Our hearts are full when we consider what the North York Women’s Centre team achieved over the past year. We applaud the program team who continued to help our participants and community with new and innovative initiatives. We are grateful to our steadfast supporters who continued to dig deep and stick by us. We commend our members and Board of Directors for their arduous work, guidance and wise counsel. Whether you’re an NYWC program participant, staff member, volunteer, board director or donor, please know that you inspire and empower us more than you can possibly imagine.
Elissa Podolsky, Chair, Board of Directors and Iris Fabbro, Executive Director
NYWC’s new program manager, Edna Anger, shares what drives her. I’m Edna, and I’m delighted to be starting this new role at North York Women’s Centre because I love supporting women and empowering them to speak up. I grew up in Nigeria, and even though my family was very close,…Read More ›
Our project team reports on the initiative’s progress. This past March, NYWC announced the launch of The Ending Gender-Based Violence by Strengthening the Digitization of Services project. The goal of this project is to develop, pilot and disseminate tools and strategies that help service providers support women survivors via easy-to-use…Read More ›
In the months and days before she succumbed to cancer, Lydia Aysip found comfort in messaging her family in the Philippines using a tablet supplied by North York Women’s Centre. Before 2020, Aysip rarely spoke to her family because the cost of long-distance calls was too expensive. Fortunately, we were…Read More ›