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The STIWC (formerly known as the Saskatchewan Indian Women's Association) is led by Isabelle McNab, who explains that many drug and alcohol treatment centres and emotional treatment centres are not reaching the Indian population. Programs designed to deal with social problems have failed to reduce the drug and alcohol abuse, family violence, and high suicide rate among Indian people. The STIWC can be a valuable resource in making these programs work. Indian women are at the centre of family life and can greatly influence family members. They can bridge the gap between the troubled individuals and the agencies that can help them. With proper training, Indian women can counsel their own people in familiar surroundings, backed up by the support of family and the community.
The elderly and the disabled are often neglected, at home and in the social programming budgets. The STIWC however, has given them priority by proposing to train women on reserves to serve their special needs.
They have proposed that each district have a crisis unit where victims of family violence can be sheltered and counselled. Another proposal would fund STIWC to combat drug and alcohol abuse.
Perhaps the key to success for each of these programs will be the proposed training package. Women will be trained in counselling and as liaisons between the people of the community and the off reserve agencies.
To this end, workshops and a newly formed task force are finding ways to bridge the gap between the home and the organizations.
They are developing a public awareness program to attract troubled people to shelters and treatment centres.
Earlier this year, Health and Welfare Minister, Jake Epp and Barbara McDougall, the Minister responsible for the Status of Women, announced that six federal departments will spend $40 million over the next four years to address the problems of family violence. Although, statisically, these problems are highest among the Indian population, little of the money has been directed specifically at Indian people. Isabelle McNab and the STIWC set out to change that fact.
Armed with their well researched proposals, the women travelled to Ottawa, where they met with representatives from four federal government departments. The meetings were positive and the women returned feeling encouraged. They modified the proposals to better suit the funding criteria and have submitted them for final approval.
The possible funding agencies include: National Health and Welfare Canada; Canada Mortgage and Housing; Indian and Northern Affairs; the Justice Department and the Solicitor General.
They successfully initiated the Saskatchewan Indian Women's Association Business Advisory Services Incorporated in Prince Albert, which offers an entrepreneur training program for women.
McNab says that STIWC has received strong political support from the chiefs in Saskatchewan and from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.
The STIWC strives to provide support and services for Saskatchewan Indian Women and their families.