Gender and Women’s Studies grants fund community projects, student employment

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Four community organizations will benefit from grants from the Gender and Women’s Studies (G&WS) program at Brandon University (BU) this year.

The G&WS program is providing $18,000 in funding through the Margaret Laurence Endowment Fund. The Manitoba Harm Reduction Network and the Women’s Resource Centre will both benefit from $6,000 Work-Study Grants. Bear Clan Brandon and Inclusion Westman will receive $3,000 apiece in Program Grants.

“It’s extremely rewarding for our program, with the support of the Margaret Laurence Endowment Fund, to be able to provide assistance to these organizations,” said Dr. Kelly Saunders, an Associate Professor in the Gender and Women’s Studies Program. “Their work benefits all of us in so many ways. The negative effects of the pandemic have been magnified in marginalized groups, and these organizations are playing a more vital role than ever in building stronger communities.”

The grants strengthen connections between the G&WS and the community by supporting projects that consider inequities of gender, sexuality, race, class, disability and neurodivergence. The funding supports special projects, events such as speakers or workshops, and short-term programming. The Work-Study Grants also create student employment, with $3,000 of each of the two grants earmarked as stipends to pay students for summer jobs.

“The ability to support students in their summer employment is a significant aspect to this grant program,” said Dr. Etsuko Yasui, an Associate Professor in Gender and Women’s Studies.

“Knowing that they have a summer job to go to reduces stress, and it’s even better that they have the opportunity for meaningful work in a role that will benefit their community and provide them with valuable experience to complement their education.”

The community organizations have no problem finding important uses for the funding.

“Brandon Bear Clan Patrol is a grassroots volunteer-based Indigenous program that aims to contribute to the safety and well-being of our community. We rely on community funding to be effective,” the Women’s Council of the Bear Clan Brandon said in a statement. “The program started out of deep concern for the safety of women primarily in our downtown but has since moved beyond. We often respond in domestic violence, exploitation and addiction related situations to help keep women and those who identify as women, safer in the moment. We also do follow up post crisis to the best of our capacity.  We help women with practical needs of food, clothing and feminine hygiene products. We do our best to prevent violence towards all, having a calm presence and position of support and caring.  As an Indigenous-based organization we provide cultural teachings to our volunteer members so they can in turn care for our people in a good way. Reclamation of cultural pride heals and contributes to safety. We are deeply grateful for the support of the Gender and Women’s Studies program, and we would like to thank them.”

Mia Bastien, Director and Operations and Development for the Women’s Resource Centre said, in addition to supporting programming, the benefit of being able to employ a summer student goes both ways.

“The Gender and Women’s Studies grant ensures that we can address the increased demand of women and their families seeking our services in the Westman community,” said Bastien said. “With the increased rates of sexual assault and family violence, the need for advocacy persists. This funding is also a wonderful opportunity to create opportunities for students interested in entering this sector to receive invaluable experience and mentorship. We are excited to grow and also learn from our Gender and Women’s Studies student, who will also undoubtedly bring their knowledge to our Centre!”

About the applicants:

Bear Clan Brandon: The Bear Clan Brandon is a volunteer-based Indigenous organization that has been in Brandon since 2017. They patrol the streets twice weekly to ensure the safety of community members. Additionally, they provide support during the weekdays based out of the Brandon Friendship Centre. The organization is led by volunteers who are known as the Women’s Council.  The Women’s Council is under the guidance and support of the Grandmothers Council. The organization is a community-based solution to crime prevention, providing a sense of safety, solidarity and belonging to both its members and to the community they serve. The group also has a Youth Patrol which is resuming in the post Covid-era. This grant will cover basic provisions such as food, clothing, menstrual supplies, safer-sex kits, safe cab rides and safe walks offered during patrols.

Inclusion Westman: Inclusion Westman advocates for and provides supports and services which benefit individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families. It is their goal to advance the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in the community. The organization works to break down myths and perceptions of individuals living with a disability as unable to contribute in valuable and meaningful ways to the life of their community. They also support families to identify their common challenges in finding ways to involve their children in the mainstream of society and still meet the needs that their children may have for extra support. This grant will be used to pay for Continuity Care (a Winnipeg organization) to offer training for families to provide tools for planning a positive future, and ways in which to create a support network around their adult child to ensure caring and supportive relationships when parents are no longer available. Inclusion Westman will also create a video for families/public sharing about planning for a positive future with or for an individual approaching adulthood or leaving the school system.

Manitoba Harm Reduction Network: The Manitoba Harm Reduction Network works toward equitable access, systemic change, and reducing the transmission of sexually transmitted and blood borne infections (STBBI) through advocacy, policy work, education, research and relationships. They do this by administering regional harm reduction networks that provide services, education, advocacy and events that are relevant to their specific communities. A G&WS student will be placed in the organization to support a new peer operated satellite site for harm reduction supply distribution. The purpose of this project is to reduce some of the barriers people who use drugs face when trying to access harm reduction supplies including stigma and limited hours of traditional distribution sites. The student will also help to plan and host monthly sexually transmitted and blood-borne infection testing events.

The Women’s Resource Centre Brandon: The Women’s Resource Centre provides programs, services, and counselling on issues affecting women and children, including family violence while encouraging respect, diversity and equality with a feminist perspective. Part of the grant will be used to support the work of the centre’s Community Resource Advocate to assist Spanish-seeking women who are navigating through various English-based services, agencies, and programs that are available within Brandon. The advocate will help women problem-solve and identify resources, assist women in filling out forms and applications, advocate on women’s behalf and collaborate with partner agencies to increase accessibility of programming to the women in our community. The other part of the grant will support the hire of a G&WS student to work on strengthening the communication of the organization’s mandate for inclusivity, respect, and equality. The student will be responsible for creating social media content, content for display within the organization, and creating informational materials that can be circulated.


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