TWCA’s Civic Engagement Café on May 9th brought together many wonderful women of diverse backgrounds to make connections and collaboratively explore Toronto’s foremost gender issues. The TWCA used the Municipal Literacy Toolkit as the foundation for the event.


Joanne Cave gave a wonderful overview as to how our city works and the municipal planning toolkit, while Jess Mustachi shared a critical perspective on housing affordability and a gendered understanding of poverty reduction and housing. Reggie Modlich provided a comprehensive review of Planning Controls and led “Our Collective Gender Lens,” a mapping activity that delighted and surprised me. As we shared our maps and our stories of the day to day, the overlapping issues became readily apparent. If you were to map where you go in a regular week, what would it look like? What are the public spaces you pass through? What is the distance you travel? What are the services you use? What is the cost of these things?



Some of us loved our neighbourhoods and felt supported by the environments in which we conduct our day to day, while others brought to light issues that often go unnoticed. For instance, while bike lanes and crowded streets are a comfort to some, they can be a source of uncertainty and risk to those with visual impairments.
Many of us reported similar issues with expensive housing and transportation costs, a lack of affordable and accessible fresh food, and how our perceptions of the city shifted with our life experiences. Dependents, such as children or an ailing relative, changed each participant’s experience of living, working, and playing in the city. By the end of the activity, the 15 women in attendance had collected enough material to rewrite Toronto’s neighbourhoods…and then some!


Civic Engagement Cafés like this one are important. The issues we discussed demonstrated why the establishment of a Women’s Equality Office is central if Toronto is going to show leadership for women’s equality and equity in city-building, governance, and poverty reduction. Join TWCA in advocating for this initiative by signing our petition and contacting your City Councillor.