New economic development in northern Canada is changing communities socially, economically, and culturally. The Feminist Northern Network (called FemNorthNet) wanted to know the downside of ‘up’ that cannot be ignored. Our research asked:
- HOW do these economic developments affect diverse women in northern communities?
- WHAT can women do collectively to address their experiences and any gaps in community or economic development initiatives, and ultimately bring positive change to their northern communities?
Using participatory action research, FemNorthNet worked directly with women from northern communities in the research process. Local women:
… Helped design the tools and methods we use to gather information about their experiences.
… Assisted with collecting information about their experiences and explain how the changes they see are impacting their broader community.
… Told us how to package the information in a way that is useful to them, whether in fact sheets, videos, or reports.
… Used resulting information materials, which embody their collective knowledge, to engage more effectively with decision-makers in their communities. In this way we worked together to create change and build sustainable development models for the North.
By prioritizing an intersectional gendered analysis, FemNorthNet focused on understanding the impacts of economic restructuring on diverse Northern women in different ways. FemNorthNet involved women from diverse backgrounds, age groups, abilities, and identities.
FemNorthNet is made up of academic and community-based researchers and community representatives, working in northern Canada as well as across Canada. While the project has scaled down in recent years, the wealth of tools and information materials produced through this project is still applied today. Many members of the Network have used this research to influence policymaking, make recommendations to decision-makers, and advocate for themselves and their communities, and continue to do so to this day.
FemNorthNet worked with community leaders and organizations in three communities:
- Thompson, MB
- Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL
- Labrador West, NL
FemNorthNet investigated the impacts of economic restructuring in the North through four cross-cutting themes:
Community Infrastructure and Economic Development
Explores the impacts of economic restructuring on community infrastructure – from physical infrastructure like roads and schools to social infrastructure like childcare programs.
Community Engagement and Governance
Investigates how local women are involved in decision-making processes about economic development and how their involvement can be strengthened.
Community Inclusions and Exclusions
Examines who has the opportunity to provide input to local development processes and how this affects diverse women’s access to local resources, services, and infrastructure.
Migration, Immigration, and Mobility
Looks at the experiences of women as they themselves move between places – whether emigrating to the North from abroad or flying in-and-out to work, or the influx of workers coming into their communities.
Activities and Projects
Three projects have operated under the umbrella of FemNorthNet:
The Building Links Among Women Project created opportunities and resources to help people think, learn, and talk about how hydro-electric development affects the lives of women. Our conversations and activities started with the Muskrat Falls-Maritime Link Hydro-electric Project – both the impact it is already having as well as the future dangers it may pose for women in Labrador, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia.
The Community Vitality Index (CVI) is a tool designed to define diverse women’s wellbeing and track changes over time. It was developed in partnership by a small group of women from Happy Valley – Goose Bay and a few researchers involved with the FemNorthNet project.
The Claiming Our Place: Women’s Relationship with Rivers project explored women’s connections to the local environment in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and how the local resource development project impacted their wellbeing. The two core objectives were to raise local women’s awareness of the large economic development projects in the region and their impacts, as well as to develop women’s ability to participate effectively in community discussions, planning meetings, and events about economic development and create tools to amplify their voices.
The FemNorthNet project has produced a wealth of fact sheets, reports, guides and tools, as well as videos and other multimedia.
Are you interested in learning more about FemNorthNet’s history, activities, projects, and findings? Download the full FemNorthNet project overview here.
The FemNorthNet project is housed at the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW). Our work was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Northern Communities CURA Program) and Status of Women Canada (Blueprint Project Funding).