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Loss of status 

Stephen Harper’s funding cuts towards equality hit Quinpool Road last week. Jodie Barnaby reports on the loss of Halifax’s Status of Women office.

There were banging pots, placards with messages against inequality and shouts of, "Stephen Harper doesn't like women, he wants us back in the kitchen! That's OK, we've got the solution—let's cook up a revolution!"

These are just a few of the sights and sounds from a protest held last Friday outside of federal Status of Women office on Quinpool Road.

It was the same day that the Halifax Status of Women office officially closed its doors, forced to shut down because of cuts in federal funding. Prime minister Stephen Harper's government announced it was cutting five million dollars from the Status of Women budget last fall. Halifax's Status of Women office was one of 12 federal offices forced to close out of 16 across the country. And women in Halifax did not let it go down quietly.

Jennifer Crawford, a student at Saint Mary's University and a member of the Radical Cheerleaders, organized Friday's protest along with Kyle Buott. "There was shouting, there was anger, there were tears. It was such a sad day. We were determined not to let that office close quietly," says Crawford.

She says even the office's employees were there to show their support. "Lucinda Montizambert, who was employed at the office, was there. She is an amazing woman and it's a severe blow to the Halifax women's community to not have her anymore."

Several services will be lost with the closure of the Status of Women office here in Halifax. The office ran research programs on the long-term effects on the health of women who work as unpaid care-givers. A rural outreach program and a female-focused video library will also be completely wiped from the city. The closure of the office does not only affect those who were employed there, but everyone who used the resources.

Robab Haghpanh is also protesting against the closure. Haghpanh is a single mother and a student at Dalhousie. She says she really got involved in activism when she moved to Halifax from Vancouver with her autistic son in 2002. She began advocating for autistic children in Nova Scotia and in December 2004 the provincial government announced funding for behavioural treatment for autistic children until the age of six.

She is now pressuring the federal government to fund programs and organizations that support women's issues. "Cutting women's programs leaves many women and their children vulnerable to violence, poverty, and other social injustice," Haghpanh says, explaining the reasons she believes an organization like the Status of Women is so important.

Haghpanh has circulated a petition which states, "Now that Canada's budget is experiencing a huge surplus, we ask the federal government to put more support into—not cut from—programs that aid women." The petition was signed by Halifax MP Alexa McDonough and on March 16 it was handed over to her office. McDonough is in full support of the petition and plans to take it to the federal government.

With the closure of the office, accessibility to SOW resources has become incredibly difficult, with the nearest office now located in Moncton. "The hypocrisy of the Conservative government is almost funny, if it weren't so damn depressing," says Crawford.

"Women need government support to protect their children and themselves from these situations," Haghpanh says.

Haghpanh and Crawford are both urging people to get involved, whether it is something daring like writing a letter to your MP or something as simple as questioning a sexist comment.

"This is not only one person's cause, it is everyone's cause," concludes Haghpanh. "We must not forget that when a woman is traumatized by violence, this impacts not only her life but also the lives of her loved ones. Therefore this is a chain reaction and these issues affect society as a whole."



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