Yesterday, Bev Oda, International Co-operation Minister announced that funding for the non-profit group MATCH International had been cut, allegedly due to performance issues.
Let's take a look at MATCH International. It is a non-profit group that had as its mandate the following which I have copied directly from their "Our Mission" page on their website:
"MATCH International Centre is a Canadian women's international organization guided by a feminist vision of sustainable development which recognizes the diverse realities of women and respects their efforts for self-determination. (my bold)
To fulfill its mission, MATCH works in partnership with groups in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and South America towards the empowerment of women and the practical enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms through civil, political, economic, social and cultural justice.
MATCH also undertakes public education in Canada on development and women’s issues; and works to build and strengthen the women's movement nationally and internationally."
MATCH has been in existence since 1976. Their programs in African countries assist women in self-supporting economic activities such as setting up micro-businesses through the use of micro-credit, assisting with clean water supply and helping women manage the water supply in their villages and raising awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and how women can defend their own sexual health. They are also helping African women by educating them on their legal rights and offering them legal assistance and support when they need it. What is most interesting to see is that they work with local groups rather than "reinventing the wheel".
Having lived in Africa, I have first hand knowledge of the importance of this type of assistance to African women. They are often undereducated or illiterate and benefit greatly from the combined assistance of both domestic and overseas aid organizations.
As soon as I read through the MATCH Mission Statement, I could see their problem right away. They used the trigger words "feminist vision". I cannot see that particular choice of words or actions sitting well with the misogynists of the Harper government. As well, MATCH is also working to help women empower themselves, another thing that will not be well received by the Harperites.
If indeed it is true that there were performance issues related to some financial irregularities, why didn't Minister Oda offer assistance to this non-profit group to help them improve their performance, financial or otherwise? She also offered no detailed description of how exactly Match International had transgressed. MATCH Internationals Executive Director Kim Bulger told the CBC that CIDA had never requested additional performance information. Their funding from the government through the federal Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) totalled $400,000 annually, actually, a relative pittance compared to Ms. Oda's annual salary of $233,000.
In addition to the cuts to MATCH, the Conservatives have cut funding to an additional 14 women's groups in the past 2 weeks. Those cut include the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, the Centre for Equality in Accommodation and the New Brunswick Pay Equity Coalition. While I realize that the funding requests made by every special interest group that steps forward cannot be met, it seems to me that there is a pattern here, especially in light of the comments made by Senator Nancy Ruth this week .
When combined with the federal government's announcement on April 26th that they would not fund abortions in the G8 child and maternal healthcare initiative for developing countries and Senator Nancy Ruth's comment that international aid groups should "...shut the fuck up..." about the Harper decision or face the potential of further measures against abortion and family planning abroad AND possibly domestically, we can see a pattern developing. Nancy Ruth has warned us that Canada still has free and accessible abortion and that Canadians should not open Pandora's box because that could change under the Conservative government (and most likely would if the Harperites were able to achieve a majority).
The Harper government has shown time and time again that women's issues are not its priority. Canadian women need to remember that when they pick up the pencil the next time they mark an "X" on a ballot.