Arts featured Poverty

Women’s rally: some photos and an El Jones poem on women’s lives in poverty

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As a bit of a follow-up on last winter’s very successful Women’s March on Washington here in Halifax about three hundred women and allies gathered at Province House today at noon to remind the world they’re still here.

People listened to speeches by NDP MLA Lenore Zann, who delivered a rousing speech on many things, and Jenna Brookfield of CUPE on violence against women in the workplace. Masuma Khan and El Jones offered up two excellent spoken word performances.

We hope to do a bit more on today’s rally, but for now, here are a couple of photos, and El Jones’ contribution, on Nova Scotia’s women lives on welfare and in poverty altogether, published with her kind permission.

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What are women supposed to do
Choose between rent, water, heat or food
People saying, why can’t they get off welfare
When minimum wage won’t cover the cost of daycare
They privatized her housing so now she can’t stay there
She had to move out to where the buses only stop once an hour
The landlord won’t do anything about the black mold in the shower
This building preys on recipients of assistance
The toilets are broken and the bedbugs persistent
The inspectors even know the building isn’t fire resistant
But there’s no other options when you’re clothing 3 children
If they find out her living conditions they might put them in the system
She gets on the bus with 3 children under 5
As she struggles with the stroller the other riders roll their eyes
Thinking ugh, there goes another one eating up my tax
While for 30 years the budget’s balancing off poor women’s backs
It’s never subsidies to millionaires the government will ever axe
Just another family in poverty in this province falling through the cracks
She’s in chronic pain from carting heavy trays, or from chemicals in the cleaning sprays, or scrubbing on her hands and knees all day
Or lifting bodies without a break for a sponge bath gave her a back sprain
Or years of working shift ununionized in damaging high heel shoes
So what are women supposed to do?
Cutting the medication she needs in two
EI cut her off because they said there’s a job close by
A Tim Hortons down the highway just an hour’s drive
Trying to stretch a week with a loaf of bread
And if she’s one of the lucky ones she doesn’t end up dead
Because the shelter’s underfunded and they’re just aren’t any beds
There’s nowhere for her to run until her blood is running red
Our solution for women in this province is to go to jail instead
We’ll pay hundreds of thousands a year to keep a woman in a prison
But won’t fund her money for an application so she can follow her ambitions
You’d think that in this country clean water was a given
But just step on a reserve and see brown water flowing in the kitchen
75 percent of Eskasoni well below the standard of living
Children in this so-called first world country growing up with malnutrition
While we’re increasing funding to the military by more than 60 billion
We threw a party for Canada 150 instead of helping women
And there’s memes going round on social media spreading lies about the Syrians
Saying they get more than seniors, it’s funny how they never mention
How many elder women are living in poverty since governments cut the pensions
And women with disabilities are left without protection
And it only seems to get worse for women after every election
They call this austerity but it’s only the poor who feel the consequences
You struggle your whole life, and then they say that you’re no use
So what are women supposed to do?
They make her live on nothing and watch the bills come due
But they’ll take it off the cheque if she makes some extra on the side
And if she tries to hide the income they’ll charge her with a crime
Meanwhile all these corporations are hiding their profits offshore
But they’ll spend all kinds of money to prosecute the poor
While there’s all kinds of deadbeat daddies never punished by the courts
They tell her get a job but she can’t afford a phone
They advertise the jobs online then wonder why she never shows
And if she makes her money in sex work then they all look down their nose
She dropped out of high school when she ran away from home
When there’s no help for her abuse she has to work it out alone
And she learns to numb the pain the only way she knows
Then she’s stigmatized and shamed when she requires methadone
So where are women supposed to go?
Sending their children to school in worn out clothes
Hoping that the streets won’t give them their start
The other kids bully them and it breaks her heart
When she can’t afford the latest trend in toys at Walmart
Do you think she wouldn’t like to have her own money to spend?
To go to see a movie or a dinner out with friends
Do you think she wouldn’t like her kids to enjoy some childhood innocence?
But how’s she supposed to get those things when all the programs end?
Do you think she doesn’t have her own dreams of a career, a car, a house
You imagine she’s just lazy and just sitting on the couch
And you pride yourself by saying, I never took a handout
Forgetting all the advantages you were born with that helped you standout.
A quarter of children in this province are born below the poverty line
And single mothers in Nova Scotia are getting poorer all the time
I guess our politicians feel that doesn’t matter as long as I got mine
There’s no need to put in any policies to see poverty reduced
Never mind that there’s a crisis with Indigenous youth
Speak to women living in these conditions and you’ll hear the truth
Stories in our province that so rarely make the news
But there’s a better way that we have the power here to choose.
So what are we as women going to do?

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