Monday, December 22, 2008

Rural Women Making Change

That's the name of a community-university research alliance at the University of Guelph, Ontario. I learned about it this summer from Belinda Leach, a University of Guelph faculty member who leads several of its initiatives. Here's the organization's website.

You'll see that RWMC is involved in a number of research initiatives, including:
  • Gural, which expands knowledge and livelihood opportunities for rural girls
  • Gendering Census and Survey Data

And here is a summary of what RWMC has delivered on just one of those topics: transportation. Lead on this project is Professor Tony Fuller of the School of Environmental Design & Rural Development at University of Guelph,

Without access to public transportation in many rural Ontario communities, getting to work or completing household tasks often requires the use of a private vehicle. In this project we are investigating how transportation affects various aspects of women’s lives, how they manage transportation and what options to improve transportation could be considered for rural communities in Ontario.

We started by collecting data and stories from women living in southern Ontario. We found a significant number of women in all types of locations and stages of life adjust their activities and livelihoods around the availability of transportation. The quality of women’s lives in rural areas was tied to transportation in one way or another.

We refined our research tool, and with support from the Sustainable Rural Communities Program, expanded our investigation to the impact transportation has women’s access to employment and job related training in rural communities in northern Ontario. We found that access to a car is important for women to find and maintain employment in these communities. Without access to a vehicle, women are confined to jobs that were accessible by walking, which are often part time and with low rates of pay.

For this project we have delivered:

  • a summary document of our research findings
  • an Op Ed essay in the Wellington Advertiser
  • presentations of results to rural community organizations, women and policy makers across Ontario
  • a Master’s thesis
  • a workshop for participants at the Northern Ontario Women’s Economic Development Conference in Thunder Bay .

In the coming year we are planning to:

  • produce a fact sheet on rural transportation for policy makers and community organizations
  • compile current examples of rural transportation systems
  • write an academic article for publication
  • present our findings at labour conferences.

Resources from this Project Team:

Clearly, University of Guelph has developed an impressive model of academic-community cooperation, and RWMC is making heard the voices and needs of rural women in Ontario.

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