Postsecondary students have welcomed a new proposal by the federal government to fund student-led initiatives that seek to prevent violence against women on university and college campuses, although it isn’t clear which projects will qualify for the funds. Minister for Status of Women Rona Ambrose made the announcement at the University of Alberta Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
“I think it’s a really great initiative,” said Rory Tighe, president of the U of A students’ union. The union, he said, will work to get the word out about the program and will help student groups apply for funding.
They will have to apply relatively quickly. Status of Women Canada will accept proposals for projects that cost up to $200,000 from students’ unions and associations, on-campus women’s centres and other postsecondary student groups until Jan. 27, 2012. University faculty and administrations aren’t eligible for funding.
The goal of the initiative is to fund projects such as campus safety audits and campus community plans that aim to address violence against women. The department said awareness and prevention campaigns shouldn’t be the primary focus of proposals.
Lise Gotell, chair of U of A’s women’s studies program, praised the effort, saying, “There’s not very much attention paid on many campuses to this issue.” But in order to qualify for funding, she noted, student groups must file financial statements and annual reports, which many of them don’t have. Campus sexual assault centres would be ideally placed to lead such initiatives, but in U of A’s case the centre doesn’t qualify for funding because it’s run by the university administration. “There’s a bit of a barrier to getting the money to where it needs to be,” said Dr. Gotell.
In making the announcement, Ms. Ambrose noted that one in six female college and university students is a victim of rape, and women under age 25 experience the highest rate of sexual assault and criminal harassment in Canada. “University and college campus communities face unique challenges in their efforts to make their campuses the safe and supportive places they should be,” she said in a speech. Several alleged sex crimes have been reported on or near Canadian university campuses in recent weeks and months.
Ms. Ambrose made the statement just days before the Dec. 6 anniversary of the shootings of 14 women at École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989. Campuses across the country commemorate the day each year with remembrance services in honour of the women who died.