Women with Opinions


Womensuffrage.org - A Conversation

Grace Lore, PHD student UBC

By Grace Lore, PhD Student & Research Assistant and Editor with womensuffrage.org

Canadians value equality, democracy, and fairness, or so they say.   In fact, our constitution proves it, Section 15 of the Charter of Rights outlaws discrimination on the basis of sex (for one) and Section 25 guarantees all rights apply equally to men and women.  But women still make up less than 25% of all politicians in Canada – so what’s the deal?

As a PhD student at the University of British Columbia studying politics, I am interested in the causes and consequences of the under-representation of women.   What are the barriers to women’s participation?  What are the consequences of the limited voice women have in the decision-making process?  Perhaps most importantly, what can we do about these failures?

Like Dancing with the Octopus, I believe that one thing we can do is start talking about it!  Information is powerful.  By coming together we can increase our voice and imagine exciting solutions.   This has been one of the important motivations behind the establishment of womensuffrage.org.   This website encourages a discussion on the democratic deficit, activism, and issues of race and sexuality in politics.   Posts explore and celebrate key players in suffrage and other movements of social justice, discuss key debates, and provide important information on dates and women’s representation around the world.  Womensuffrage.org has given me the opportunity to share my academic research and participate in this important discussion with others who also care about the democratic deficit.   For example, you can check out my post on the representation of women’s issues by women in western Canadian provinces or my discussion of the good, the bad, and the ugly of gender quotas in elections.  If you’re interested in learning more about the women in politics in Canada and internationally, womensuffrage.org has information and profiles on Kim Campbell,  Nellie McClung,  Diane Kelly (first woman ever elected Grand Chief of the Grand Council of Treaty #3), Aung Saan Suu Kyi,  Malala Yousufza and more. 

Are you interested in participating in the discussion?  Visit womensuffrage.org and while you are there take a look at the submission guidelines.    It is by informing ourselves, learning from each other, and participating in the discussion on women in politics in Canada that we can begin to make a difference.


GiGL: Girls in Government and Leadership  

Alanna Newmanby Alanna Newman, Founder and President

Take a moment to think about the top politicians in Canada.  There’s Stephen Harper, Bob Rae, and Thomas Mulcair.  But something is missing.  Despite the fact that half of all Canadians are women, only a quarter of elected representatives in Canada are women.  Taking a moment to look at the Premiers across Canada, all but four are women.  This is not an issue of any particular party, and indeed, individuals from across the political spectrum need to be a part of the solution. 

Girls in Government and Leadership, or GiGL for short, was founded to combat this problem from a grassroots level.  We know that elected politicians are leaders in our community.  We know that women are capable leaders.  And we know that there are issues facing girls that prevent them from becoming the strong leaders that they can be.  GiGL aims to instill a love of politics, an interest in government, and a passion for leadership within girls in high school.  We have planned a diverse series of workshops that deal with topics including the political spectrum, public speaking, debate, political involvement, government structure, leadership, and self-empowerment.

GiGL is set apart from many other groups that encourage young women to be leaders because we have a strong commitment to the political sphere.  We have planned six informative workshops, each of which deals with a different issue related to political involvement.  We place a strong emphasis of presenting each political party in an unbiased fashion, and giving the girls we will work with the tools needed to make an objective decision about the party or political ideology that is the best fit for them.  We also place a strong emphasis on public speaking, which is why our workshops will all include a discussion element.  We know that an important factor of leadership is clear communication skills, including an ability to articulate opinions and ideas.  GiGL places a central focus on encouraging discussion and collaboration- as opposed to arguments. We’ll include public speaking, self-esteem, policy, and the role of government, advocacy, and media in our workshops.  We know that there is more to politics than elected office, and intend to show that through our programming.  To bring it all together we are planning a conference, inviting girls from across South-Western Ontario to participate.  Not to leave behind young women in university, we plan to host a speaking event each month on campus that will aim to bring together young women from across the political spectrum to discuss contemporary issues.

GiGL has some big plans for this year. I encourage you to follow us on Twitter @GiGL_Tweets, “Like” us on Facebook, check out our website http://gigl.sa.utoronto.ca/about/ .  If you are interested in supporting GiGL financially, please contact us at gigl.uoft@gmail.com.  Help us to inspire girls to be all they can be!


Who gets the gold medal?

by DWtO Intern Katherine Cheng

Katherine Cheng

The participation of women in the political field has undeniably come a long way in less than a century. There are those who feel that equality has been achieved in the voting booths and political offices alike. As a result, this is an issue that has been pushed aside to make room for economic rather than social woes. But just exactly how far has this movement come?

It turns out that the answer varies from country to country. With Norway leading the percentage of female ministers present in their government, they take the gold medal with a whopping 52.6% (as for the Olympic games, we will just have to wait and see). With only three other countries that have also achieved a 50-52% of women in official political positions, progress in the remaining countries is slow and steady. This means that the rest of the 192 countries in the world have a majority of males as Members of Parliament.

Without balanced representations, the decisions that are being made today will inevitably be biased, which places the under-represented in a vulnerable position in the future. Even a country such as Canada takes the 27th place behind the United States with a mere 26.9% of ministerial positions being taken up by females, according to UN Women statistics as of January 2012. Fourteen countries, including Singapore, tie in last place with 0%.

This perspective is put into place on a broader international scale by the IPU Secretary General, Anders B. Johnsson, who says, "less than one-in-five parliamentarians in the world today are women. It is a worrying statistic at this point of human development and impossible to justify. The political will to change this is simply lacking in most cases."

However, this might be changing. As of right now, there are 17 countries with a female head of government or state - a number that has doubled since 2005. This list includes Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Indian National Congress Party; Cristina Fernandez, president of Argentina; and Julia Gillard, prime minister of Australia.

With these role models and at this rate, it is entirely conceivable to push countries with ministries that are composed of 50% women from four to forty to all 196. Why have only one gold medal when you can have 196?

source: http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm


"You Should So Do This!"

by video contest finalist Veronica

On April 3rd, I got an e-mail from my mom that simply said, “You should so do this!” with a link to the Dancing With the Octopus video contest. 

After spending a few minutes looking through the website and reading the story behind DWtO’s origin, I knew exactly what my video entry would be; so, I put on a nice dress, ruined my hair and make-up, and began acting out the stereotypically perceived “flaws” of women. My goal was to over exaggerate the worries of a sector primarily run by men in order to make my overall point: anything you can do, we can do fabulously.

Both my father and grandfather were members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta as Progressive Conservatives, so I couldn't help but wonder how proud they would be to see me following in their political footsteps.  Granted, they probably wouldn't have expected my path to include projectile tampons, but I march to the beat of a different drum (side note: I had to do the tampon scene 3 times, and I was finding rogue tampons around my bedroom for days afterward).  Unfortunately, my landlord got home just as I started filming the crying scene, so I had to make sure I got the shot right the first time in order to maintain the illusion of being a mentally stable tenant.  

I'm really happy to have been a part of this contest, and seeing the videos the other ladies submitted was great! I love that we all had such different interpretations of the same question posed. All the more reason for getting more of us interested in pursuing political careers - we need some more creative thinking in our offices! Cheers to you, ladies of Dancing With the Octopus, for being such an engaging and forward-thinking group of role models. Fierce and fabulous, every last one o'ya!

Veronica is a 21 year-old university student living in North Vancouver, British Columbia.  Her lifelong passion for the arts combined with a love of writing led her to the start of her video blog, Nicki911, where she humorously documents the trial and error learning curve of being a young adult in the city.

Check out Veronica's blog, Nicki 911.


Guide Guides and Government

by DWtO Intern Hannah Jones    

 So this month, I stumbled across an article about a troop of Girl Guides in Toronto. The Girl Guides learned about politics  one evening, covering all their bases with lessons from a municipal, provincial, and federal woman politician.

They discussed the possible closure of Ontario Place, a beloved lakeside amusement park where I have many fond, sunburnt memories. The politicians gave the girls practical advice on what they can do about it. They chatted about something we talk about a lot at DWtO meetings: the inciting incident that sends women into politics.

Before you think this is some ploy to get voters (either to sway their parents, or a really, really long-term plan), check out the initiative these girls took:

“The evening was planned entirely by the girl guides, who range in age from nine to 11. Right now, the Girl Guides of Canada do not have a 'girls in politics' badge, however, the 89th unit would like to change that. The troop has sketched and voted on a political badge, which it will submit to the Girl Guide head office for future consideration.”

First Rebecca, the 13-year-old winner of DWtO’s video contest, and now these girls! Young women around the world are really running the show in the global conversation about women in politics.

This reminds me of idea that has been floating around in my mind ever since I facilitated diversity workshops in high school, and which had new life breathed into it by Dancing With the Octopus. I want to further develop the classroom-workshops tentacle to get kids, especially girls, not only interested in politics but excited about it.

If the 89th troop of Girl Guides succeeds in creating a 'Girls in Politics' badge, I hope DWtO can be a part of making the workshops happen. This is what I've loved about working with Dancing With the Octopus; I've really been able to make it my own, applying my own ideas and approaches to Sandy’s thesis.

I can’t wait to get kids pumped on politics, and to see what they’ll have to teach me along the way!

Hannah Jones is a Writing and Women's Studies student at the University of Victoria.