Freedom to Choose: The impact of YWCA Toronto’s December 6th Fund

YWCA Toronto
YWCA Toronto
December 04, 2019

Thirty years have passed since the devastating events unfolded at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1989. That day 14 women were targeted and killed – for being women. This was not the first case of mass misogynist violence, and unfortunately it was not the last. Thirty years later and we still honour this as a day of remembrance, of the 14 women who lost their lives, and of all who have suffered the impact of gender-based violence.

When the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women was established in 1991 its purpose was to move beyond commemoration and offer motivation to action-based efforts aimed at the elimination of all forms of gender-based violence. YWCA Toronto is proud to offer our December 6th Fund to support women leaving domestic violence.

Ruth Mathiang, December 6th Fund Support Worker, shares more with us:

What is YWCA Toronto’s December 6th Fund?

YWCA December 6th Fund is a non-interest bearing revolving loan for women leaving violent homes in the Greater Toronto Area, including Peel region. The fund helps women and their children to re-establish themselves in greater safety.

The impact of the Fund is quite significant. Not only does it take the financial load off recipients’ shoulders, it also helps women feel heard, understood and supported by the community.

When was it established?

It was established in 1994 to commemorate the 14 women murdered at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal on December 6, 1989.

A group of community volunteers founded the December 6th Coalition soon after the tragedy. The Coalition held commemorative events each year to mark the event, including selling “red rose” buttons in TTC stations across Toronto and distributing pamphlets to raise public awareness about violence against women.

In 1994 the Coalition began to consider the ways in which micro loans could help women leaving abusive situations to acquire items necessary to make the transition from abusive situations to living independently in greater safety.

In 2006, the December 6th Board of Directors began to seek an organization to take over the administration of the Fund. YWCA Toronto was chosen as the best fit for the program and in April 2007 the December 6th Fund officially became a YWCA Toronto program.

Why do you think it’s important?

A lot of women leaving an abusive situation face financial hardship and the funds we provide take away some of those barriers they face.

Who benefits from the Fund?

Most of the recipients are racialized women between the ages of 22 to 50 years old who are fleeing abusive situations. Unfortunately the reality is that many abusive relationships involve some degree of financial control. Financial independence is critical to women leaving violence.

How is money raised for the Fund?

The Fund was established with the support of The Canadian Women’s Foundation and United Way Peel Region [now a part of United Way Greater Toronto]. In 2014/2015, we received a generous $1,000,000 donation from the Ruby Family.

The Fund sustains itself by offering loans on a revolving basis, which means the repayment of existing loans regenerates funds available for other women in need.

How have you seen the Fund change women’s lives?

Women have been able to use the funds for rent, moving expenses, bills in arrears, furniture and other needs.

There are no other services like the December 6th Fund that offer interest free loans to women in need, mentally and emotionally. These loans offer at least partial relief, such as rent to start a new life free from violence.

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YWCA’s December 6th Fund is proudly doing the work of creating action-oriented solutions for women leaving domestic violence. With safety and support to make choices, women will change their lives. The best way to understand the impact of the loans is to hear from the women themselves. Below are some stories from recipients:

I would like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you for your help and support this year.  When I first came to you, I was nearly at a loss for hope. There is still much to heal from my relationship. But securing my home after such trauma has made a very big difference in my health and well- being and has lessened the amount of stress and hardship during this time. So thank you so very much! (M.R.)

I really appreciate and am grateful for the assistance.  This loan has made it easy for me and my children to relocate to NS and away from the location where my ex always found me. This process has been easy and taken with compassion/understanding. I feel lucky we have programs like these.  (M.C.)

God bless the December 6th Fund. Accountability, due diligence and transparency. Only you guys have been my saving grace. I didn’t have any support in Toronto and nowhere else to seek for assistance. I will always remember! (A.C.)

More services and resources like the December 6th Fund are needed to further enhance the efforts made by victims in their goal of rebuilding their broken home and lives. (L.O.)

If you’d like to support YWCA Toronto’s programs for women leaving domestic violence please make a one-time or monthly donation. Every dollar helps!

By Wren Pragg with Ruth Mathiang