GBV, SHE-covery, and empowering women

Talking with Katherine O’Neill from YWCA Edmonton and Jan Reimer of Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS)

L I V E talking about GBV, SHE-covery, and empowering women out of this crisis!

Talking with Katherine O'Neill from YWCA Edmonton and Jan Reimer of Alberta Council of Women's Shelters (ACWS)

Posted by Bev Esslinger on Thursday, June 25, 2020

Edmonton Transit Announces A Gender-Based Approach

On March 12 at Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage, Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) announced their unique gender-based approach to further enhance transit safety and security, with a focus on women and girls.

ETS will be one of the first transit agencies in North America to use gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) to enhance safety and security for riders. This tool looks at how different genders and diverse people experience policies, programs and initiatives. ETS will also be connecting directly with community groups and agencies, like the Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton (WAVE) and the ETS Advisory Board, to better understand root causes of safety concerns, particularly for women and girls.

ETS will continue to implement safety and security-related changes to further improve safety for customers, employees, and communities in Edmonton. Taking a holistic approach to safety, ETS will incorporate GBA+ processes, customer journey mapping, and community stakeholder engagement into further planning.

As part of the City’s participation in the United Nations Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative, we will focus on including diverse perspectives using a GBA+ lens in the work focusing specifically on women and girls. By improving safety for women and girls, we will further enhance safety for everyone.

In consultation with WAVE and the ETS Advisory Board, ETS heard feedback that a text alert feature, to discreetly report safety and security concerns, would help further enhance transit safety. As a result of this feedback, as well as findings from the 2018 UN Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Leaders’ Forum, ETS is working through a full analysis to introduce a text alert feature this summer. Text alerts would go directly to the ETS Control Centre.

Safety and security is always the City’s top priority. ETS provided an update in October 2019 that included sharing the positive results that have been achieved over the last year since an investment in physical and workforce security features such as Operator shields, security guards and upgrades to LRT Stations and Transit Centres. Positive results include a 52% reduction in mischief/vandalism at transit centres and LRT stations, a 25% reduction in crime on transit property, increased perception of safety since last fall, improved surveillance and reporting, and additional support for employees.

Family Violence

Family violence impacts everyone, not just the victims and the perpetrator. It has been said that family violence doesn’t discriminate; it’s not limited to a particular economic or cultural segment. It affects us all.

The repercussions are emotional, physical, financial and spiritual.  It destroys people’s sense of wellbeing and safety at home, work and in the community.  

There is a significant ripple effect in the workplace and the community.  It is a pervasive social issue, but there is hope and we all have a role to take. Social change doesn’t happen overnight; it’s going to take time and collective effort.  

The statistics are sobering:

  • Alberta has the second highest rate of self-reported spousal violence
  • Women continue to report more frequently than men experiencing family violence
  • Annually the Government of Alberta spends $65 million on crisis services

 ( Family Violence Hurts Everyone: A Framework to End Family Violence in Alberta)

The City of Edmonton, along with its community partners, has a long history of

being an integral part of family violence prevention. This effort was strengthened in 2015 when City Council approved the Gender-based Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Initiative.  At that time, we pulled together key stakeholders and what we heard has guided efforts over the last four years. The goals were clear in:

● Reducing domestic violence and sexual assault in Edmonton.

● Creating awareness of, and increase understanding of gender based violence

● Engaging key stakeholders  and those with lived experience including leaders from educational institutions, non-profit organizations, all orders of government and the private sector to be involved in identifying ways of building awareness and knowledge to all demographics on the issues and impacts of gender based violence.

● Identifying ways to engage men and boys about their role in ending gender based violence in our community.

Our aim is to make the city safer for women and girls in all their diversity.  This will create a city that is safe for all. 

It’s Time Edmonton has been working to build awareness and start conversations. This is being achieved through several projects:

  • This Is What It Feels Like 
  • Edmonton Safe City – a partnership with United Nations Women and Government of Alberta (Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women)
  • Coasters for Consent
  • SafeCityYEG

You are part of the solution. Learn more at: itstimeyeg.ca/

Shift Report

Safety on Public Transit, taxis and ride sharing

Since I have been elected to Council one of my main areas of focus has been safety for everyone including the vulnerable, children and women. As part of the UN Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces for Women and Girls we completed a scoping study that identified public transportation as an area that women felt the most vulnerable. Public transit, taxis and ride-sharing services are a site for risk of sexual violence.

Over the past few years we have been working on increasing security at public transit by utilizing good urban design principles, and earlier this year we began 24/7 security at many transit stations. I am happy with some of the progress we have made with public transit but will continue to push for even more safety.

I heard from women during the Uber debate that safety is one of the concerns they had. They felt it was important that Criminal record checks were in place before someone could be licensed and the same standard applies to all drivers including taxi cabs.

Currently the bylaws in place keep new applicants with convictions from getting their vehicle for hire license. However, already licensed individuals (with convictions that have occurred since they were first granted their licence) are successfully appealing their licence rejection because of the lack of clarity in the bylaw. As an unintended consequence this action has eroded public trust and safety. The idea that anyone that has been convicted of crime is allowed to drive the public concerns me, and as a City we have a responsibility to only license those who we feel confident will keep our citizens safe.

On March 6th this item is coming to Community and Public Services Committee for debate. My priority is public safety and will work to have clarity of rules and expectations. Let me know your thoughts or come and speak to this issue at Committee. You can register to speak at committee or public hearing here.

UN Safe Cities

Last week I attended UN Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Leaders Forum which included much discussion on reducing sexual harassment and assault in public places in cities. The City of Edmonton is a wonderful City made up of many caring individuals, however, we still face a growing concern with violence and sexual assault. The majority of gender based violence is committed against women and girls, which points to roots of the violence about gender equality.  It’s an important issue for everyone to be a part of as violence against women and girls has economic, social, emotional, and physical impacts that limit their ability to fully participate in civic and political life. This could limit their potential as an individual, and their potential within the greater community. Men and boys play a large part in reducing this problem by being strong allies and advocates against violence and sexual assault .

As a City we saw the need to step in to help with this issue. In April 2015 the City of Edmonton’s initiative on gender-based violence and sexual assault prevention was initiated by Council, its aim is to end gender-based and sexual violence in Edmonton. If we want to achieve gender equity and empowerment, it is critical our public spaces are safe for everyone. A city free of sexual violence in public spaces is a city that is safe for all.

Edmonton is increasing crime prevention through environmental design audits of green spaces, transit terminals or other public spaces, with the intention of making spaces safer and more inclusive for everyone. The aim is to help people better anticipate their surroundings, feel welcome and know that services are easily available.

In 2016, Edmonton became the second ‘safe’ city in Canada to join the United Nations Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Global Initiative to make urban public spaces safe and empowering for women and girls.

As we have been working on this initiative we have learned that we need to clarify what gender based violence is – that it’s not just physical acts – but includes actions such as verbal and emotional harm. Understanding this helped us come up with and launch the “Its Time Yeg” campaign and itstimeyeg.ca to help people understand the effects of their actions. We know that working together is the only way we’ll end gender based violence.

There is a shared civic responsibility for stewarding these kinds of changes, and they must be done together. It’s important to acknowledge we all have a role to play in creating safe, inclusive spaces. Would you partner with me in standing against gender based violence?

Women’s Initiative

Edmonton has a rich history of incredible, strong women who believed that they could make a difference in their world. Like my predecessors, (Click Here to Learn More about the Famous Five!) I want to encourage & empower women from all walks that they to have a voice in our city.

Women constantly & consistently use their voices to speak up for others, whether it’s advocating for their child in school, speaking up and ensuring quality care for sick family member, or just being a voice of encouragement and inspiration with a friend over coffee…so why not speak up and speak out and take an active role in transforming our communities.

Maybe you’ve been waiting for somebody to give you permission and say, “Your ideas are important, and your voice matters.” Well, let me be the first of many to say to you today, your ideas are important and your voice matters! Can you imagine a community, and City that created forums and opportunities for you to use your voice to make a positive impact in your community? We need everyone to speak up… you have a voice, and it’s your choice whether or not you are going to use it!

My hope is that through the Women’s initiative and WAVE, and including events like our Women’s symposium, that we are giving women an opportunity to voice their concerns and aspirations for our city and the issues we are facing.

Everyone has a voice….and it is our choice whether or not we use it. There are many places we can speak up but I want to use my voice to empower others to use their voice. Together we can build a strong community.

I look forward to hearing from you!

– Councilor Bev Esslinger