Stirring it up

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 Cookbook for Women's Equality: Out of the kitchen, cooking up equality!
Taking action for women's equality and eating well

Can a cookbook be a useful tool to advocate womenâe(TM)s equality? Can crafting up some tasty dishes in your kitchen help rekindle a social movement?

As counterintuitive as these notions might seem, the Cookbook for Womenâe(TM)s Equality: Out of the kitchen, cooking up equality! is a cookbook that inspires action! It challenges us to remember that womenâe(TM)s equality is not a given, that it still requires our hands, hearts and minds; to stay alert to what the government is promoting in its policies and continue the fight for womenâe(TM)s equality.

As a chef and caterer, I found myself examining my actions outside of the kitchen. In running my own business, I make sure to pay well and make allowances for the personal needs of my employees. So I tend to forget the issues that many women face to be fully respected and compensated in the workplace. This cookbook provides an excellent backgrounder about a series of attacks on women by Stephen Harperâe(TM)s Conservative government. I was shocked to read about the Harper government's outrageous lies and manipulations.

Lest we forget, in 2006 Harperâe(TM)s government cancelled the federal provincial child care agreements — at a time when 70 per cent of women with children under the age of five are working. It totally eliminated funding to the Court Challenges Program which was the major base of support for those fighting to ensure their equality rights under the Charter. They announced that they would not implement the recommendation of the federal Pay Equity Task Force to introduce proactive pay equity.

They also axed funding to Status of Women Canada (SWC), the federal department responsible for advancing womenâe(TM)s equality, by 40 per cent of the budget. Not only was Status of Womenâe(TM)s independent policy research fund eliminated but they also changed the rules and the mandate of SWC so that womenâe(TM)s groups which do research or advocate for equality are no longer eligible for federal financial support.

In the spirit of fighting back Ad Hoc Coalition for Womenâe(TM)s Equality and Human Rights created Cookbook for Womenâe(TM)s Equality as a useful activist tool for women. Cleverly designed, this small volume speaks loudly, and provides both humour and encouraging advice. It has ideas to sustain and feed us at meetings and gatherings and help us in effective grass roots organizing. It gives simple, straightforward steps for writing letters of protest, when and how to make yourself heard, how to be effective in your efforts for change and stirring up others in your community. It gives information on whatâe(TM)s happening with and effective actions to take in regards to the Status of Women Canada, the National Child Care, Pay Equity and the Court Challenges programs.

As for the eight food recipes in the book I found them easy to follow, good solid recipes that you will find yourself including in your daily repertoire. They include both sweet and savoury delights, and are the kind of recipes that can be altered to make them your own. The book combines food recipes followed by a recipe for action — both with well laid out ingredients.

Start by trying out a perfect lemonade recipe — “Letter Writing Lemonade.” Serve this with “Harperâe(TM)s Sugar-Coated Shortbread” for an old time southern tradition of sugar cookies and lemonade. And while enjoying your afternoon snack, why not try the next recipe in the book “Punchy Letter Lemonade” with the simple ingredients of 1. Pen, 2. Paper, and 3. Outrage.

I am particularly fond of the “Ultra-Light Tuscan Bean Soup,” which “unlike the Harper governmentâe(TM)s diet version of Status of Women Canada, this nutritious soup will leave you satisfied.” It reminds me of my motherâe(TM)s homemade bean soups from her region of Italy — the kind of food that is sublime.

A recipe for curry called “Harperâe(TM)s Currying Favours (with the Radical Right)” is one of the best I have found and I plan to use it often and to serve it as suggested: “with healthy democratic debate.” For homey comfort food at its best, I love the combination of macaroni and meat in the “Beefy Pay Gap Macaroni.” If you're looking for something lighter try substituting with ground chicken or turkey. And, if you're not into meat, try cooking it up with your favourite meat substitute or add finely chopped eggplant, zucchini or assorted mushrooms for a marvelous meat free dish.

Thatâe(TM)s the beauty of these recipes — they are so versatile and created with everyone in mind. Wouldnâe(TM)t it be great if our government was cooking up policies in the same way?—Laura Di Vilio

Laura Di Vilio is the owner and head chef of The Di Vilio Good Food Company in Toronto.

****

Ultra-Light Tuscan Bean Soup, a recipe from Cookbook for Womenâe(TM)s Equality

Unlike the Harper governmentâe(TM)s diet version ofStatus of Women Canada, this nutritious soup willleave you satisfied.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 shallot or small white onion, finely diced
3-4 cups fat free chicken broth or vegetable stock
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14 ounce) can white beans
1/2 cup whole wheat pasta shells or shell pasta
1 teaspoon rosemary
3 cups baby spinach, cleaned and trimmed
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 dash crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions:

1. In a large sauce pan, sauteâe(TM) the shallots andgarlic in the olive oil.
2. Add broth, tomatoes, beans and rosemary to pot.Season with black and red pepper. Bring to boil.
3. Add pasta and cook for 12 minutes. If the soupseems too thick for your liking, add a bit morebroth.
4. Add spinach and cook until wilted.
5. Serve hot with a side of crusty bread.

NB. This soup makes great fuel for letter-writing.If the Harper governmentâe(TM)s drastic changes toStatus of Women Canada have you steamed up, inviteyour friends over for a bowl and direct youroutrage to:

Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of WomenHouse of Commons. Ottawa, Ontario. K1A 0A6

No postage necessary!

****

Canadaâe(TM)s Equality Guide says women need a healthy portion of researchand advocacy in order to advance equality. Status of Women Canadaused to be a nutritious source of research and advocacy — donâe(TM)t buy thegenetically modified version sold by the Harper government!

Status of Women Canada — Why It Matters:

âe¢ Status of Women Canada (SWC) was the federal government agency responsiblefor working toward womenâe(TM)s equality in Canada. It led the waywhen it came to making sure federal policies and programs had a positiveimpact on women.

âe¢ The SWC Womenâe(TM)s Program provided vital funding for many womenâe(TM)sgroups that work at the community level to promote equality.

âe¢ Status of Womenâe(TM)s budget represented only 0.009 per cent of the total federalgovernment spending in 2007. Thatâe(TM)s only $1.30 per Canadian woman!

âe¢ Although women are 51 per cent of the population, and yes, we can vote, thereality is that women continue to face systemic barriers and suffer disproportionatelyfrom poverty, violence and discrimination. We are not equal inCanada yet!

Whatâe(TM)s happening to Status of Women Canada?

âe¢ The Harper government, with no public consultation, has dismantled Statusof Women Canada. Harper removed the word âeoeequalityâe from the Status ofWomen mandate, blocked funding for research and advocacy on behalf ofwomen, and made huge cuts to the agency, shutting down regional officesand laying off staff.

âe¢ Womenâe(TM)s groups across the country are struggling for funding, and are beingforced to stop any “political” work — no advocacy, no research, no equality!

âe¢ Women are told that we are “equal” and that we “donâe(TM)t need” research andadvocacy anymore, despite all evidence to the contrary (advocacy got usthe vote, after all!)

We need real leadership on the part of the federal government when it comesto womenâe(TM)s equality, not just sugar-coated misogyny!

Ask your representatives:

âe¢ Will your party commit to allocating 0.01 per cent of the next federal budget toStatus of Women Canada to bring the funding up to $ 2.1 billion?

âe¢ Will your party commit to making SWC a full-fledged department with asenior minister whose primary responsibility is to ensure womenâe(TM)s equality?

âe¢ Will your party commit to ensuring SWC has a federal presence acrossCanada by reversing the decision to close 12 out of 16 regional offices?

âe¢ Will your party commit to reinstating “equality” and “political participation”as objectives of the Womenâe(TM)s Program?

âe¢ Will your party commit to restore funding to womenâe(TM)s groups for researchand advocacy, and independent policy research?

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