In the late 1980's and early 1990's the Saskatchewan women's movement was a force to be reckoned with. Feminist organizations within the province had built a solid base from which to act and continue to build.
The Saskatchewan Women's Agenda* was the result of an intense, two-year, participatory process that brought more than 50 Saskatchewan women's organizations together to determine what women needed to live full and equitable lives in this province. The Agenda addressed a broad range of issues, established goals and directed our work and the work we hoped to see a new government take on.
But then came the anti-feminist backlash. As a result, creating a better world for women gave way to debt reduction. Most feminist organizations faced slashed budgets from federal and provincial sources. Some groups folded. Others managed to hold onto shoestring funding and find other sources and stay alive.
Feminists in Saskatchewan have not come together in a real and meaningful way since the mid 1990's. Key organizers within the women's movement have left the province or worse, passed on. Generational change is afoot in the organizations that managed to stay afloat and a key piece of our Saskatchewan women's history, the Saskatchewan Women's Agenda, is difficult to find, let alone study and pass on.
In mid-October, Niki Ashton, Member of Parliament for Churchill and Opposition Critic for Women, hosted the Women's Forum des Femmes which brought together a diverse community of women from across the country. Ms Ashton created a “space for women to share experiences, ideas, and shape collective plans for re-igniting the women's movement in Canada.” Women who hadn't connected since the 90's were able to share their stories, many heart-breaking and anger-making, to reconnect with sisters in the struggle, to re-invigorate each other and younger feminists taking leadership in the movement and yes, to re-ignite the Canadian women's movement grounded in wisdom, a passion for change and a commitment to make a better world.
This is what the Saskatchewan women's movement needs. Ms Ashton's model can be easily adapted to the provincial level. The new Leader of the Saskatchewan NDP can make it happen. He can make it happen because he knows we are better together.
*Note that I will upload the Saskatchewan Women's Agenda as soon as a scanned copy is available.