The Aurora Analysis Institute examines the well being of ladies within the NWT as a part of a collection of audio system
Violence between partners remains one of the major obstacles to healthy quality of life for women in the NWT, and both the birth rate and the percentage of breastfeeding mothers are falling.
This is the latest update on the health of women in the NWT that the Aurora Research Institute (ARI) Health Research Manager and Instructor Dr. Pertice Moffitt, on January 13th as part of the ARI’s Virtual Speaker Series.
Moffitt addressed the high points of 10 years of social science research on numerous women’s issues in the north.
“I’ve seen the world through a gender lens since I was a kid,” she said in her opening speeches. “Women’s health, if we seek a definition, is the impact of gender on disease and health, encompassing a wide range of biological and psychosocial issues.”
Dr. Pertice Moffitt supports nursing students Adoma Asiedu and Constance Afoakwah during the HealtheSteps program, one of several initiatives Moffitt has overseen over the past decade.
Photo courtesy of the Aurora Research Institute
Moffitt noted that her area of work covers a variety of more specific areas, highlighting everything from efforts to map intimate partner violence to reducing diabetes diagnoses in the NWT.
As part of the HealtheSteps program, Moffitt and nursing students Adoma Asiedu and Constance Afoakwah have worked to monitor what people eat and how much they move. The Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) states that as of 2016, more than 10 percent of the NWT population over the age of 24 have type 2 diabetes. So Moffitt took part in the pilot to encourage lifestyle changes.
“We had student trainers working on the project,” she said. “Education is very helpful for women. The other thing they accomplished was a photo voice about how people stayed healthy and what they did. “
The DHSS found that violence against women in the north is ten times higher than the national average. According to Moffitt, the ongoing effects of colonization and the intergenerational effects of dormitory trauma were both main drivers of intimate partner violence in the north, but the limited resources available to women in dangerous situations and social isolation exacerbated the problem.
“Violence continues to be normalized as a way of life,” she said. “There continues to be shame and guilt for violence, most commonly directed at women who survived the violence, not the perpetrators.
“It’s complicated and we know that it is influenced by many systemic problems and social determinants, such as unemployment, poverty, housing, lack of early education, gender, health services, social exclusion, substance use and even the ability to get safe transportation from the offender’s territory.
“Colonialism that has led to a culture of violence and silence in many of our communities.”
A third area of study that Moffitt highlighted was a 2015 survey of women in the NWT and the challenges they face for their quality of life. Participants reported being socially connected, active, feeling independent, safe, and secure, as well as being connected to traditional knowledge and practices and having a feeling for their place in the world. However, the persistent consequences of colonialism and residential schools weighed heavily on those surveyed, as it had led to a loss of cultural traditions and abuse of the elderly. Social isolation, high cost of living, lack of medical support, food pollution in rural areas, alcohol and drug addiction, and overcrowding in poor houses were major factors affecting the overall quality of life.
A map showing the location of both intimate partner violence and accessible services to escape that violence that Dr. Pertice Moffitt used in her January 13th presentation. Moffitt noted that the data shows that violence against women is a territorial problem.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Darlene Juschka, Dr. Mary Hampton and Mrs. Tracy Knutson – Community Research Unit
Another item Moffitt wanted to draw attention to was a study on breastfeeding in the NWT. A 2018 study found that 82 percent of mothers breastfed their newborns in the hospital, but practice at home dropped to 17 to 60 percent, depending on where in the field. The problems preventing mothers from breastfeeding ranged from complications due to tuberculosis to the aftermath of trauma in school to social stigmas associated with the practice.
“Mothers who are shared there have a lot of judgment about their dietary choices and practices,” Moffitt said. “To this day, the feeding of babies in public is scrutinized. Some mothers want the fathers to take part in the feeding, so they introduce the bottle. “
She added that lessons from the 2018 study have now been incorporated into NWT’s nursing curriculum.
Moffitt’s work is far from finished. Next up is a conference on Canada’s Domestic Murder Initiative for Vulnerable Populations, held May 11-14 as part of Zoom to address one of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The initiative maintains a domestic murder database and supports domestic violence death review committees that Moffitt is seeking to bring to the north.
“They are reviewing the deaths and trying to figure out where we could have acted to prevent this tragedy so hopefully we don’t have more deaths,” she said. “The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability has also found that, on average, a woman or a girl is killed somewhere in our country every other day.”
According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, as of 2020 there were 21,930 women in the NWT, which is slightly less than half of the 45,161 population. Of these women, 6,594 are over 60 years old and 14,146 are between 25 and 44 years old. The NWT Health Status Chartbook notes that births have been in decline over the past decade, with 581 recorded in 2019 versus 711 in 2009.