TORONTO: As instances of domestic abuse rose manifold during the pandemic, FinPowered and The Canadian Center for Women’s Empowerment (CCFWE) have decided to bring focus on the associated economic abuse. 

The collaboration came through in November which is also the Financial Literacy Month. As per the records, domestic abuse cases rose twofold during the pandemic. At least 93% of these domestic violence victims also said they faced financial abuse. Another revelation that impacted the decision was made by a national survey conducted by Statistics Canada, according to which only one in every three Canadian women said they had the right financial knowledge and skills to maintain their financial independence.

This led to the two organisations deciding to provide free financial education to women all over the country, with the aim of creating awareness of the kind of economic injustices that can be perpetrated within abusive relationships. CCFWE says economic abuse is characterised by the abuser exerting control over the financial independence of the victim. It is manifested by either withholding the money needed for necessities, taking away money or financial control. It may also include not involving the abused person in any decision making with regards to joint finances, completely taking over the other person’s access to resources, micromanaging the other person’s spending habits and expenses among other things. 

FinPowered was launched by Miss World Canada 2020 Svetlana Mamaeva, an alumnus of Schulich School of Business, to provide free financial literacy to help women. It has already held 85 workshops attended by more than 800 women since launching. The organisation’s work will be showcased at the 2021 Miss World competition this December. Talking about the importance of their mission, Mamaeva said, “Increasing financial literacy among women and curbing the devastating effects of economic abuse on victims is a challenge, yes, but it is a battle that can be won.”

CEO of the Canadian Center for Women’s Empowerment Meseret Haileyesus said, “Women from marginalized groups are at a higher risk of economic abuse due to systemic factors. Culturally appropriate awareness and education on economic abuse is very essential to protect women.” 

What is Economic Abuse? 

Economic abuse occurs when a domestic partner interferes with employment, controls access to finances, refuses to contribute to costs or generates financial costs without consent. Women from marginalized groups, including newcomers, refugees, racialized and Indigenous women, are at a higher risk of economic abuse due to other systemic factors.

Economic abuse can have a profoundly devastating effect on women: it impacts mental health and impedes a woman’s ability to leave an abuser, subsequently prolonging the amount of time she is vulnerable to harm. Those who experience economic abuse are five times more likely to experience physical abuse and other forms of gender-based violence including sexual and psychological abuse. Moreover, when women experience economic abuse in the context of coercive control, they are at increased risk of homicide (Surviving Economic Abuse 2019).