Heidi Marion, project manager at the Yukon Status of Women Council, left, and Aja Mason, the director, sit for a photo with some examples of electronics that people can donate in order to help women in abusive situations now compounded by COVID-19. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon Status of Women Council collecting cell phones, computers for domestic violence victims during COVID-19

The Yukon Status of Women Council put out a call for donations recently

Computers and cell phone donations are being asked for in order to help women in abusive situations now compounded by COVID-19.

“We do know that there are undeniably gendered impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Aja Mason, director of the Yukon Status of Women Council, which put out a call for electronic devices on March 20.

Some women don’t have access to them, and with many public spaces such as coffee shops and libraries closing up, those in precarious living environments won’t be able to use the internet as readily, she said, adding that work is being done in order to expand internet ranges in the city.

“We do know that gender based violence and things like domestic violence have increased in other places where lockdown measures are more severe,” she said, noting that the Yukon has some of the highest rates of domestic and sexualized violence in the country.

Brendan Hanley, the chief medical officer of the Yukon, said last week that the territory is not in lockdown.

“Access to things like ordering food online or even being able to reach out socially and have connection with other people, you know, being able to contact or access sources of help or assistance if you are experiencing domestic violence — we recognize that there’s a whole swath of people in the Yukon who are basically excluded from that. …” Mason said.

The hope now is to connect women so that when things get even worse — a possible lockdown — women will have recourse, a way out, she continued.

“Anything that could help mitigate some of the impacts of living in isolation,” she said, noting that social distance, or self-isolation, could mean even more contact with an abusive partner.

So far, local schools have offered to donate roughly 50 desktop computers. Some cell phones have trickled in, too. These are ideal, Mason said, because of their compact size.

“For certain, it is a lot easier to distribute smaller technologies, i.e. not desktops, as you can imagine, so we’re certainly still looking for laptops still and tablets,” she said.

Making matters worse is the housing crunch in Whitehorse, along with the pay gap between men and women, Mason added, both of which present other difficulties in fleeing unsafe situations.

Mason said that pre-paid credit cards could be distributed eventually, which could help curb financial impacts.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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