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The roots of Athena

Led by the Applied Research team at the Atlas Institute, the Athena Project is a new initiative dedicated to research and building connections in support of women Veterans’ well-being.

There is a lot that remains to be explored about the lived experiences and health of women Veterans in Canada. Although many researchers have done work in this area, there is still a lot that needs to be understood so that women Veterans can receive the support and care they need to flourish and thrive.

The Athena Project is an endeavour that will design a research project for women Veterans, with women Veterans. The Applied Research team at Atlas recognized that a strong and meaningful, name to accompany this research project was a way to pay homage to women Veterans in Canada.  Athena, the Olympian goddess of wisdom and good counsel, war and the defence of towns was chosen as a symbol of the strength and leadership women have shown in their roles as military and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) service members.

Athena also holds significance in recent military history as Op Athena was a critical operation within the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (2003–2011). This mission integrated all elements of the military as well as diplomats, development workers, law enforcement, corrections officers and other civilians with valuable expertise to share with the Afghan government. During this time in Afghanistan, women accounted for almost 10% of deployed personnel and played important roles in policing, medicine, intelligence and more.

It was also during this time that Captain Nichola Goddard was killed in combat duty. Captain Goddard was “the first female combat officer to lead Canadian soldiers into combat” and the first Canadian woman to lose her life in battle since the end of the Second World War, highlighting an evolving landscape in which women were taking on active combat roles. Captain Goddard’s death received significant coverage in English and French Canadian media, and mainstream outlets began to acknowledge women’s engagement in front-line roles and contributions to the country’s defence. This marked a significant turning point, which heightened public awareness of the expanding and pivotal roles women hold during service.

This legacy is a reminder not only of the strides that women have made in serving their country but also of the importance of comprehensive research that supports their health and well-being as Veterans of the Canadian⁠ Armed⁠ Forces⁠ (CAF) and RCMP.

Designing research in partnership with women Veterans

In order to develop a research project that can begin to answer critical questions, we wanted to not just consult with women Veterans but collaborate with them to shape the project. This approach is informed by the principles of community-based and participatory action research.

The Athena Project Working Group is composed of 14 women Veterans of the CAF and RCMP, each of whom brings her unique voice, knowledge, skills and expertise to this project and ensures that the research we are undertaking reflects the needs and priorities of women Veterans.

Through regular meetings and online collaboration, working group members are supporting all aspects of the research process, from the development and refinement of research questions to the identification and adaptation of study measures, to the development of recruitment strategies and materials.

Get involved

Contribute to the evidence about women Veterans’ health and well-being needs, inform recommendations for improving care in Canada and join a group of women Veterans passionate about making a difference!

Need More Information?

Please contact the Athena Project team for more details.