The first week of April, Equal Voice brought 338 young women and gender non-conforming youth, aged 18-23, to Ottawa to represent each federal riding for Daughters of the Vote (DoV) 2019.
To better understand this program, we must first look to the origin. DoV is an ambitious initiative by Equal Voice that began in 2017 to mark the 100th anniversary of some women getting the right to vote in Canada, and the still incomplete journey of women’s full participation in politics today. Many of the young women involved in DoV 2017 have had a significant positive impact within their communities, have started their own cause-based organizations, and even run for office!
Again in 2019, the DoV program brought together delegates from diverse backgrounds, with equally diverse opinions and visions for Canada. To make a successful program, Equal Voice put equity at the heart of the planning. All travel, food, accommodations, and childcare were paid for in full to ensure the event was financially accessible. All Equal Voice staff took anti-oppression and anti-racism training ahead of the summit in Ottawa, and delegates also took this training on the first day of programming.
With full-time Indigenous and Equity coordinators on staff for the planning and execution of the 4-day summit in Ottawa, Equal Voice hired support workers and elders, all on-site 24/7, provided decompression spaces for delegates, and organized an Indigenous forum, as well as a workshop with Operation Black Vote. We invited diverse panelists and presenters with the goal of exposing delegates to a real diversity of experiences and opinions that reflect the diversity of Canada, and the delegates themselves.
What makes Equal Voice unique is that we are a multi-partisan organization (not to be confused with non-partisan). We proudly work with all political parties to advocate for equal representation of women in Canada’s political institutions. It is this distinction that makes us known both in Canada and abroad - because while many women’s leadership organizations exist, there are none quite like Equal Voice anywhere in the world.
As one of our many programs advocating for more women and diversity in politics, representatives from all major political parties were invited to speak during DoV, and we are grateful for the multi-party support. DoV is intended to encourage women to engage in politics, no matter what political party they align with, if and when they do.
DoV saw delegates discovering for the first-time what party they may like to one day run or work for – with only about 100 of the 338 initially reporting a political affiliation. Many signed up to volunteer in upcoming provincial or federal elections. A large number of delegates expressed that they would never have considered engaging in politics had they not been a part of the program, and some left the summit committed to one day run in their communities. Some participants reached out to say they will be seeking nomination in the upcoming 2019 election, and a handful of delegates also used their spare time in Ottawa to search for work opportunities – with a few indicating they have already succeeded! We are humbled, and sincerely proud, to have been a part of their political journey. Of the 338 delegates, it was clear that the majority had an overall positive experience.
In saying this, Equal Voice sincerely regrets that some delegates experienced harassment in person or online. We did our best to provide a safe environment for delegates to learn and participate fully in the program, but we are aware that some delegates faced backlash from the public and their peers that negatively impacted them and their experience. This highlights the challenges women face online in politics, a reality that Equal Voice is all too aware of and has been working to change for many years through participation in various programs and forums that aim to combat the culture of online abuse of women in politics. We continue to do everything we can to support these delegates.
DoV is still a new and growing program. We are committed to learning from these experiences to make 2021 better and to address the issues that were raised, while proudly maintaining our multi-partisan mandate and the many successful aspects of DoV that prepared women across the country to engage in politics.
We sincerely thank the Department for Women and Gender Equality, as well as our corporate and community sponsors, for making this program possible and for their engagement in ensuring women are better represented at the decision-making tables of this country.