Sustainable Livelihoods Model

Elizabeth Fry Toronto, established in 1952, provides programs and services, community support and transitional residence for women who are, have been or are at risk of being in conflict with the law. We also advocate for alternatives to the criminal justice system and educate society and public institutions about the challenging realities of women at risk of, or in conflict with the law.

The Context that Creates Women’s Vulnerability to Criminalization

Social, economic and political realities contribute to women’s experience of inequity in our society. The intersection of gender, race, class and sexuality has resulted in women’s higher levels of poverty, physical and sexual abuse, racial discrimination, family breakdown, limited education, unemployment, and mental health and addiction challenges. Society’s expectations of women can lead to marginalization and victimization. The criminalization of survival strategies characterizes the experience of many women who are in conflict with the law. Incarceration further marginalizes these women, and increases the risk of re-entry into the criminal justice system.

Elizabeth Fry Toronto places women’s experiences and their life contexts at the centre of its work. When women can access the information, tools and supports they need they have more options to move forward in their lives and avoid further conflict with the law. With support, criminalized women are empowered to sustain positive changes in their lives, and to become actively engaged in their communities. With a better understanding of the issues that criminalized women face, key stakeholders, including policymakers and funders, will be better equipped to support alternatives to incarceration leading to a decrease in criminalization of women.


Adapted from The Stages of Livelihood Development (Canadian Women’s Foundation and Eko Nomos


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Susan is a public speaker, educating people about the criminal justice system and legal rights. She exudes confidence and speaks with passion. It is hard to imagine that just a year ago, Susan was struggling with low self-esteem and was extremely shy. After a long history of incarceration, Susan was determined to change her life for the better. Susan joined the Peer Leadership program and developed public speaking skills, connected with positive role models and built her confidence. Susan is now a community educator, has re-connected with her family and is mentoring new members of the Peer Leadership program.