Waterloo Regional Council Candidate Fauzia Mazhar’s passion brings people and groups together to build a welcoming, inclusive and safe community. Fauzia is a community builder, engaged citizen and tireless social innovator, and is known as a keen civic strategist.
Why did you decide to run?
I decided to run because I believe that we need to elect a Regional Council that is more reflective of the community. Female councillors make up 37.5 per cent of our current council. Our region is one of the most racially and culturally diverse regions in Ontario, and in Canada. However, our current Regional Council is completely missing out on the wealth of racial and cultural diversity that our community is rightly so proud of. I am one of the three female candidates and the only person of colour out of the nine candidates running for Regional Council from Kitchener.
From an active transportation system that can keep vehicles off the roads to housing that is affordable to all income levels to a community where everyone feels welcomed and belonged, I am passionate about all the challenges facing our community and the opportunities that arise when we work together to address these challenges. I believe that I bring a unique voice and a perspective that will add richness to the discussions and innovativeness to the decisions at the regional council table.
What is your favourite thing to do in your community?
My favourite thing to do in the community is to work with others to address social, economic, gender and racial inequalities. I have been fortunate to serve the community in many informal and formal leadership roles, including four years at the Waterloo Region Immigration Partnership Council, Chair of the Belong Steering Group, Immigration Partnership, President of Pakistan Canada Association-Waterloo Wellington Counties, Founder and Chair of the Coalition of Muslim Women of KW, and Director on the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery board.
Tell us about the greatest challenges your community faces?
I believe affordable housing is the most pressing challenge for our community. We have more households (over 4000) than ever on the affordable housing waitlist and their wait period has been increasing. Seniors, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, survivors of family violence and newcomers are particularly at risk. We also have a growing chronic homelessness challenge on hand which requires a combination of immediate temporary housing access and access to permanent supportive housing as quickly as possible. At this time of growing housing crisis, a lot of our federal funding for affordable housing is up in the air with the change in the provincial government.
The National Housing Strategy (NHS) recognizes that women and girls are disproportionately impacted by housing need and that the types of housing barriers faced by them are unique. 63% of households living in subsidized housing are female led. NHS has adopted Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) approach for both the development and implementation phases. We need to make sure that GBA+ lens is applied to all housing discussions and decisions at the local level.
To address the growing housing issue, I propose bringing together public and private sector as well as community organizations and citizen groups to develop a strategy to achieve the affordable housing target set by the Waterloo Region Housing Action Plan (2014-2024), concerted efforts to bring private sector investments in the affordable housing market, increasing supportive housing, and addressing the low incomes through active advocacy and policy changes.
What would you do to improve women's health in your community?
Evidence tells us that sex and gender, as well as cultural factors influence one’s health. The challenges for women in receiving the health services are twofold: (a) lack of understanding of distinct nature of women’s health issues, and (b) gender bias in the health system.
Health inequities become more pervasive when gender intersects with race and culture. I am passionate about for better access to health system for women in general and immigrant women in particular.
Noticing the barriers to accessing sexual health education and resources for immigrant women, I reached out to public health and other community organizations resulting in women’s health education program for immigrant women. As the chair of the Coalition of Muslim Women of KW (CMW), I am very proud of the work that CMW has been doing in the area of enhancing the sense of belonging and positive mental health for newcomer women by providing access to community participation, expanding their social networks, and providing opportunities for personal and professional growth.
I will continue my active involvement and advocacy for women’s rights, including their health rights at the regional level, and beyond.
What would you do to improve women's safety in your community?
Whether at work or at home, walking city streets or using public transport, at university campuses or in gathering spaces, women and girls are subjected to the threat of harassment and violence in our community and around the world. Much has been done to advance women’s safety and women themselves have taken it upon themselves to “take back the night” but VAW continues to raise its many ugly heads.
As an engaged citizen, I will continue to support educating young people about respect and consent. I will also continue my advocacy against hate crimes / hate-based incidents that often victimize women disproportionately.
As the Regional Counsellor, I will strive to include VAW and Hate based crimes in the crime prevention agenda.