Steps in the Right Direction

2010 Interim Trends Report: Steps Being Taken In The Right Direction

All around us, Prince Edward Island is easing into summer. Observers watch for new crops emerging from red soil, tourist operators welcome visitors, and students leave schools, report cards completed. The PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women is easing into summer too, with the timely release of its 2010 Interim Trends Report. Interim Trends is a mid-term assessment on government action and inaction towards women’s equality goals, positioned between the full-fledged June 2009 and 2011 Equality Report Cards.

Government has reason to be pleased: this June, trends indicate that if government action continues on the priorities the Advisory Council has identified, it will improve on its 2009 “C” grade, next year. The Status of Women notes some long-awaited actions that have been realized. The completion of the updated 1996 statistical profile of women on PEI will furnish actual evidence to support good policy and program decisions. Critical financial increases to Family Violence Prevention Services Inc.; changes to the Child Protection Act of importance to women aged 16-18 years, who are facing relationship violence; and updates to the Employment Standards Act that extend protections in the areas of maternity, adoption and parental leave — all auger well for the Island community.

There have also been many steps in the right direction, with regard to works-in-progress. Notable in this category is the move of kindergarten into the school system and positive new approaches to early childcare and education. The Trends Report states:

With its new initiatives for Preschool Excellence and Infant Homes, the government has shown commitment to the importance of care and learning for pre-school children and support for parents who work outside the home. There has also been additional investment in early childhood care and education, including plans that will cap parental contributions and enhance wages for educators. These are all steps in the right direction. Improving the wage structures for early childhood educators places renewed value on caregiving work and jobs that even today are mostly held by women.

A check back to the Council’s 2003 submissions on this topic confirms the gratifyingly high level of agreement between Council and government about directions to take in this sector.

Educators know that the value of a report card is in praising effort, building on assets, and identifying areas for improvement. So too with the 2010 Trends Report. The Status of Women has raised a cautionary note about government’s handling of change processes, both in relation to the its exciting early childhood initiative, and in implementing new models of nursing care, in health care. It is a truism that the beginning and the end of change are the easy parts; it is the middle of the grind that is most challenging. As government works its way into these “middles”, the Status of Women Council hopes for lots of attention to communication, especially to listening for the voices of long-serving professionals for whom this change may feel quite rapid.

How could government achieve higher grades in 2011? The Council has identified some priorities for action, including continued supported transitions in the early childhood initiative, and action on training members of the provincial public service in using gender- and diversity-based analysis (GBA). Gender- based analysis is a tool (and a mindset) that allows government to predict potentially different and unequal outcomes of policy for women, men, and diversity groups. Action on government’s public promises to develop a cross-government Poverty Reduction Strategy, to initiate a specialized domestic violence court, and to strike a Special Committee on the Role of the MLA would also raise grades.

The next full Equality Report Card will be released by the PEI Status of Women in June 2011. The Interim Trends Report is available on-line in English and French at http://www.gov.pe.ca/acsw. Hard copies are available calling 902-368-4510 or e-mailing peistatusofwomen@eastlink.ca.

Isabelle Christian, Chairperson, PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women

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