Building Capacity

Breaking the Cycle | National Research Project on Housing & the COVID-19 Pandemic | Memorial Bursaries | Scholarships

At CAEFS, we are working to build the capacity of the non-profit and legal sector to better serve criminalized and incarcerated women and gender-diverse people.


We work with our local member societies to coordinate the sharing of resources and knowledge, build partnerships, and bring our network together to convene on key advocacy issues.

We also consult with organizations and stakeholders outside of local societies to help reduce barriers to accessing services for criminalized women and gender diverse people and raise awareness about the issues impacting criminalized and incarcerated people.  

Essential to our work is also building the capacity of currently and formerly incarcerated women and gender-diverse people to advocate for themselves and attain their goals. We offer regular trainings inside the federal prisons designated for women, and facilitate an annual bursary program.

Learn more about our capacity building initiatives below.



Breaking the Cycle

Launched in late 2019, Breaking the Cycle (BTC) is a four-year project rooted in the decarceration of women in Canada. BTC aims to both facilitate the long term reintegration of women exciting incarceration and curb the number of women being sentenced to prison time in the first place. This work centers on helping to build the capacity of our communities to offer the resources that criminalized women need, and ensure that women are aware of and can access these supports.

This project will result in two key deliverables:

  1. a National Legal Resource Network of firms, lawyers, and clinics willing to provide pro bono legal services, and;

  2. a companion handbook to our 'Human Rights in Action' guide, specifically designed for women and gender exiting situations of incarceration.

This work is supported by four regional coordinators and three expert consultants who – in addition to building CAEFS legal network and developing the handbook – work closely with local EFrys, criminalized women and gender-diverse people, and other stakeholders to strengthen our network and advocacy efforts.​

This project is funded through a capacity building grant from Women and Gender Equality Canada (formerly the Status of Women Canada).

National Research Project on Housing & the COVID-19 Pandemic 

Beginning in 2020, CAEFS began a nationwide research project examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the housing needs of the women and gender-diverse persons served by Elizabeth Fry Societies. 


Engaging in in-depth discussions with local Elizabeth Fry Societies and with the people served by our societies, we are currently learning more about the specific issues these stakeholders faced in accessing and retaining housing and housing supports during the pandemic, as well as how our societies adapted to meet the various challenges that emerged.

Through these discussions and data gathered from focus-groups, surveys, and in-person interviews, this project will: 


  1. Highlight pressing housing needs that have only become more apparent during the pandemic

  2. Draw much-needed attention to the many innovative responses to housing challenges that have been undertaken by our network during this time. 

This research is an exciting opportunity for CAEFS to emphasize and advocate for the vital work being done by our local societies in providing housing supports that are responsive, flexible, and centred around the specific needs of the women and gender-diverse people we serve.

Memorial Bursaries​

The Memorial Bursary is an annual bursary distributed by CAEFS that seeks to help criminalized women, trans, non-binary, and Two Spirit people in reaching their educational and employment goals. For education the bursary can go towards: tuition / course fees, required books, and required materials. For employment to bursary can go towards: start-up costs for a small business, certification courses, required clothing, or required equipment/ materials.

Who can apply?

The bursary is open to women, trans, non-binary, and Two Spirit people who are currently incarcerated (provincially or federally), or who have been incarcerated in the past.

How much is the bursary for and how many are available?

CAEFS awards up to three bursaries of $750.00 each to each of the five regions in Canada (Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies, Pacific). The number of bursaries is subject to the availability of funds.

How do I apply?

  • Complete the application form, which can be found here. 

  •  If you would prefer to complete the form through video recording, or voice memo you may.

  • Submit this form to CAEFS by

    • mail to CAEFS c/o Elizabeth Fry Cape Breton, 16 C. LeVatte Crescent, Sydney, NS, B1N 3K3

    • by email to, subject line: Bursary Application 2021

How will the bursaries by reviewed and awarded?

  • Each region will review applications based on financial need and the strength of the employment/ education plan.

  • Each region will then select up to three applicants to be nominated to CAEFS

  • A designate from the Elizabeth Fry Network in that region (either a staff member or regional advocate) will complete the CAEFS nomination form for each of the 3 nominated candidates and submit along with the applications to CAEFS

  • Successful applicants will be notified and sent a cheque for the bursary amount. Unsuccessful applicants will also be notified.

When Do I Apply?

Applications for 2021 are now closed. 

When Will I Be Notified / Receive My Bursary?

  • CAEFS will notify successful applicants no later than the second week of July

  • CAEFS will distribute funds by the end of August

Ready to apply? Click here to access the application. 


We provide a total of $10,000 in scholarships to reduce the barriers for women with lived experience of incarceration or criminalization who are interested in attending our annual conference.

Scholarships include:

  • airport transportation,

  • airfare (or appropriate alternative)

  • hotel accommodation for up to 2 nights

  • conference registration and a small per diem

  • financial support for childcare at home while attending the conference is available on a case by case basis.