In 1992, all the regional consultation assemblies were being restructured. This initiative by the provincial government provided an opportunity for a group of women to take part in the decision-making process, particularly regarding regional development. After the gains made by women during the 1970s, it was clear that the power structures were the places of choice for women’s advancement in the socio-economic dynamic in Quebec, but more particularly in the Eastern Townships. This led to the participation of the group of women who would become Pépines in the Colloque “Tête à tête en Estrie, des hommes et des femmes se parlent du développement régional de leur région” in 1993.
Created in 1992 and officially incorporated as an organization in 1995, PEPINES – Promotion des Estriennes pour une nouvelle équité sociale was concerned with the democratic deficit in women’s representation in regional development. At the time, only six of the 42 members of the Table concertation de développement régional (CRD) were women. As women’s interests were not represented, it was imperative for the group to assert their specific needs, promote their skills and use their resources for the greater good. The group participated in the CRD until 2004.
In 1995, the need for structure was felt, so the group was incorporated, it named itself and formed a board of directors. The choice of name came down to Pépines, a reference to equipment typically used on male dominant construction sites. It was an ironic comment to Minister Tremblay’s ministerial responsibilities and industrial clusters (Gérald Tremblay, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Technology from 1989 to 1994 under the government of Robert Bourassa and Daniel Johnson). PEPINES later became an acronym for Promotion des Estriennes Pour Initier Une Nouvelle Équité Sociale.
The group’s main objectives at the time were:
- Put in place the means to give women’s access to decision-making spheres.
- Promote women’s involvement and participation in the socio-economic development of their region.
- Highlight women’s achievements, both in terms of their work as breadwinners, and in terms of their voluntary commitment to improving the population’s living conditions.
- To encourage women in the Eastern Townships to reflect on contemporary perspectives of the job market, to increase the number of places where they can enter the workforce and encourage a new approach.
- To improve socio-economic and political living conditions for women in the Eastern Townships.