FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government is establishing an independent forum to advance equality and improve the lives of women and girls.

Justice Minister and Attorney General Marie-Claude Blais, who is also minister responsible for women’s equality, announced the creation of the Voices of New Brunswick Women Consensus-Building Forum while tabling the 2013-14 main estimates of the Women’s Equality Branch. The forum is the result of the Women's Summit in 2011 and meetings held during the last year between her and the Voices of New Brunswick Women Working Group.

"We have worked hard during the last year on this forum,” said Blais. “We have listened to the women of this province, and we are proud to provide them with this independent forum to ensure their voices continue to be heard. I thank the members of the working group as well as my colleagues and the staff of the branch for their hard work and support that enabled us to move this project forward. I am looking forward to working with the branch and the forum in their different but complementary roles toward a future where we are all equal."

The forum will provide advice to the provincial government on matters of interest to women while bringing issues to public attention. Membership will consist of representatives of women's groups and/or organizations mandated to work on matters of interest to women. It is anticipated that the forum will be operational by this fall following the joint development of a relationship protocol that will ensure the independence of the forum is realized while ensuring a collaborative working relationship with the provincial government.

The budget for the Women's Equality Branch in 2013-14 is $3,074,000. Funding will continue to be provided for many programs and services, including:

●    domestic violence outreach services;
●    the concurrent group program for children exposed to violence, and their mothers;
●    second-stage housing;
●    the Provincial Sexual Assault Strategy;
●    the Strategic Framework to End Violence against Wabanaki Women in New Brunswick;
●    gender equality scholarships; and
●    the cybersafe girl initiative.

"The 2013-14 budget will continue to fund the many programs and services that provide much-needed services to women and children in New Brunswick," said Blais. "The provincial government is committed to building a secure, economically viable and strong New Brunswick in which women may live and raise their children."

LINKS:

●    Women's Equality Branch
●    Voices of Women Working Group report