YWCA says it’s struggling to meet demand for food


The YWCA NWT says it is having trouble keeping up with the number of people who need help putting food on the table.

On Tuesday, the organization released its annual report, which revealed that an average of 55 families a week now rely on YWCA NWT food security programming.

The report also showed figures indicating that domestic violence in the territory remains above average: between 2014 and 2018, the YWCA NWT found an average of 73 emergency protection orders were filed each year. In 2021 and 2022, that number jumped to more than 100.

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YWCA executive director Hawa Dumbuya-Sesay linked these figures to a wider international trend of increased violence against women and girls over the past two years.

“One of the key reasons for that jump is that people were stuck at home with their abusive partners due to the Covid pandemic,” said Dumbuya-Sesay. “People were afraid to leave and be in a shelter setting. We also believe we saw an increase in abuse because while many women were stuck at home, there was also the tension of Covid, the financial challenges, and just the general hardships of that time.”

Many of those hardships have outlasted the pandemic. High interest rates and rent increases continue, for example, while Covid-19 relief funding has often ended.

“There’s a huge need for food currently,” said Dumbuya-Sesay, “and there’s really no funding for it. During Covid we were able to access different local grants, nationwide opportunities, but all that funding has disappeared.”

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While the YWCA has continued to offer support for women and children through family violence shelters, help accessing emergency protection orders and transitional housing programs, the organization says its options are limited for those who can no longer feed their families.

“Now we’re really struggling, because we still see a lot of people coming in on a weekly basis to access food support, but the funding is really not available,” said Dumbuya-Sesay. “We continue to support as many clients as we can.”

Though the past year has brought challenges, Dumbuya-Sesay says there is relief in feeling like some aspects of her work are back to normal.

“We’re thankful for the staff and the funders we do have, that allow us to do this work still,” she said.

“We’re happy to be back at full capacity with programming, and being able to be in person again for most of the things that we’re doing. We’re really thankful for that.”

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