For those who thought Venus Envy is about sex toys, sex workshops and lube, you might want to look a little closer — their real work is about building community, of course mainly sex community.
But also in other ways. Starting this year, the playful retailer is bringing its bursary program to the Ottawa store. The program has been active in Halifax since 2000.
“We wanted to give something back to the community,” says Ottawa store manager Shelley Taylor.
The bursary is available to women attending a diploma, degree or certificate education program in Ottawa. From year to year in Halifax, it has varied in amounts from $700 to $1,000, and goes directly toward tuition costs to help shave a little off the top. This September, two will be awarded for $1,000 dollars each.
Typically, two bursaries are awarded each annually, one to a mother and one to a woman without children. The eligibility is determined by financial need, though application asks for information on community involvement as well.
The money used to go directly to the women awarded, but it became complicated in tax season. “Some women were on a family benefits program, so the bursary affected their eligibility,” says Taylor. The bursary is only available to women, despite the fact that Venus Envy has many male customers. “At the time the bursary was created, part of the store mandate was to help women,” she explains.
Taylor notes that there is still a very real wage gap in Canada, with women making 70 percent of what men make across the board, according to a 2001 Statistics Canada report.
“Making it available to women is a way of narrowing that gap, because education makes a huge difference in women’s wages,” says Taylor.
Since the wage gap is still very real, any effort to narrow it is a real challenge. Venus Envy contributes to many community events that are not just for women, including Pride and the queer youth help line.
There are three women on the selection board in Ottawa — Taylor herself, Simmi Dixit of Simmilicious Treats, and sexy librarian Megan Butcher. These women decide who is entitled to the bursary; it’s no easy task given the number of women students facing financial crisis.
Money for the bursaries is raised through community events like dances and concerts. And on the first Monday of every month, five percent of the store’s total sales go into the bursary fund. So that’s a great day to buy someone special, maybe yourself, a new toy. As well, donations to the bursary fund are welcome.
The deadline for application is Jun 15. Visit www.venusenvy.ca for more information and to apply.