CCN PHOTO | DEBORAH GYAPONG
The CWL delegation that took its offers to help to Parliament Hill included legislation chairperson Anne Marie Gorman, resolutions chairperson Shari Guinta and national president Betty Anne Brown Davidson.
A Catholic Women's League delegation came to Ottawa March 23-27 chiefly to build bridges on Parliament Hill, said the CWL president Betty Anne Brown Davidson.
The three-woman delegation came armed with resolutions passed by the CWL's 2012 national convention as well as those of previous years, but Brown Davidson stressed the meetings above all are about "building liaisons and bridges so we can share ideas."
"And we do," she said. In meetings with cabinet ministers, policy advisors and members of Parliament, their approach is "What can we do to help you?" she said. "They just brighten up. We brighten up, too."
In meetings with policy advisors of Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose, for example, the CWL delegation of the president, legislation chairperson Anne Marie Gorman and resolutions chairperson Shari Guinta, was delighted to discover one of Ambrose's commitments as Status of Women minister is for leadership training, Brown Davidson said.
Two years ago, the Sisters of Service offered the CWL $500,000 to create a foundation for leadership training.
At last year's national convention in Edmonton, the membership approved the establishment of The Catholic Women's League Leadership Foundation. The CWL will match the $500,000 contributed by the Sisters of Service, so the foundation can use the interest to offer leadership training to a cohort of 12 women a year.
In the second year, the first year group will remain in training, so that 24 women a year will be involved, Brown Davidson said. The training will combine leadership skills and Catholic social teaching.
"The idea is to train Catholic women in leadership skills to take their place around boardroom tables, in politics and in business," said Brown Davidson.
The foundation also gives women who wish to leave money to the CWL a chance to contribute to the foundation and receive a charitable tax receipt, since the organization itself is not a registered charity.
Gorman said the plans they heard in Ambrose's office sounded "exactly like the foundation we started." She noted the Cody Institute in Antigonish provides leadership training for aboriginal women.
"We are going to be looking at these carefully and offering them as something for our councils to support," said Brown Davidson. "Education is the key. If we teach women leadership skills, we can do anything."
She noted the CWL already provides leadership training for women in a community of sisterhood where, step by step, one learns how to exercise leadership in a supportive atmosphere. In that situation, "it's okay to make a mistake and we'll help you."
"I was a stay-at-home mom of four little kids, terrified to speak in public," Brown Davidson said of her beginnings with CWL. "We want everyone to succeed."
Their busy schedule of meetings includes one with Justice Minister Rob Nichols.
The delegation came armed with the two resolutions passed at last year's national convention: One urging the government to adopt the Nordic model of anti-prostitution laws that criminalize the purchase of sex.
Brown Davidson said the Nordic countries that adopted this model, which criminalizes the "johns" or clients and seeks to educate them, has reduced prostitution by 30 per cent. Countries that legalized prostitution have seen it increase.
The CWL supports the Nordic model "because we believe the women are being victimized," she said.
Another resolution from a previous year called for the development of an exit strategy for women wishing to leave prostitution, Brown Davidson said.
"We're saying to all our members, can you somehow broaden this, like having a safe house to help them get off the street as well as asking the government to provide the funding?"
The other resolution from last year concerns providing equal employment insurance benefits to mothers who adopt.
"We're looking at this from point of view of discrimination against the child," said Brown Davidson, calling adoption a huge adjustment for both the child and the family.