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Fostering a dialogue on austerity

by Tiffany Lafleur February 17, 2015
Fostering a dialogue on austerity

Simone de Beauvoir Institute looks at impacts of government cuts on women

On Thursday Feb. 12, the Simone de Beauvoir Institute invited the provincial government to have a public discussion on how austerity measures will affect women.


“We are simply raising the question of whether these cuts would have a particular impact on women, and we propose a forum to exchange ideas on this matter,” said Dr. Viviane Namaste by way of email. Namaste is a professor at the Institute and a research chair in HIV/AIDS and sexual health.


“The Simone de Beauvoir Institute has gone public with this invitation because we feel that government policies need to consider their potential impact on women,” she said.


At the press conference Thursday, Namaste read a letter on behalf of the Institute, addressed to Stéphanie Vallée, Minister of the Status of Women. In the letter, the Institute extended a Valentine, declaring their love for the women of Quebec, as well as an invitation to have a discussion on how the Couillard government’s financial reforms will affect the province’s women.


“As a feminist institute, located in a university, our mandate includes encouraging reflection and consideration of an issue, based on empirical data,” said Namaste.


In the press release, she proposed having two representatives from the Ministry, and two from the Institute. They also proposed having it conducted by a credible, neutral professional for a one to two-hour event that would be publicly broadcasted both on television and online.


“We think that many people would be interested in learning more about the potential impact of government reform on women. And we feel that a democracy includes a space of public dialogue committed to the reasoned exchange of ideas,” says Namaste.


In the letter, the Institute make it very clear that they are not going forward with this discussion in a confrontational manner. Instead, they want to discuss the impacts the cuts would have on all Quebec women: Aboriginal women, handicapped women, single mothers, and the elderly. Quoted from the press release, and translated from French: “Love requires communication and exchange, even in difficult times.”


The discussion would revolve around three main points: the governmental cuts and their impact in the health sector, the consequences the cuts would have on education and on the condition of women, and the search for solutions, whether they are political, fiscal and administrative to ensure the well-being of Quebec women.


Although these are not the only sectors in which women would be affected by the governmental cuts, Namaste emphasizes that these points will provide a point of departure to discuss how women will be affected in particular ways by the current governmental reforms.


The Institute concluded their Valentine and invitation with a wish to hear back from Minister Vallée before Sunday, March 8, 2015–International Women’s Day.

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