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Equal Voice launching ambitious national initiative, Daughters of the Vote (The Hill Times)

Mar 21, 2016

 

This article was originally published in The Hill Times. It was written by Nancy Peckford on March 21, 2016. 


Equal Voice launching ambitious national initiative, Daughters of the Vote
It’s clear that for gender parity to be a reality in the lifetimes of these young women, the work must start now.

 

By NANCY PECKFORD
PUBLISHED : Monday, March 21, 2016 12:00 AM

 

OTTAWA—This past week, the Trudeau government made headlines for its international engagement, particularly at the United Nations. The media widely reported on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the United Nations, not just because of Canada’s interest in attaining a security council seat but also because Canada sat down with executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to discuss Canada’s support for a global gender equality. Trudeau was also celebrated by Catalyst for his leadership in appointing a gender-balanced cabinet—where he once again demonstrated his comfort in self-identifying as a feminist. It’s something to which Canadians are growing accustomed but it remains a novelty among male leaders the world over. Not surprisingly, it stood out.

 

What was less reported is that these meetings took place during the 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW). The Commission on the Status of Women is the principal global inter-governmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Each year, governments from around the world deploy official delegations comprised of ministers and outside experts to address key matters of women’s equality during the session.

 

Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of non-governmental advocates for women’s equality also attend parallel sessions to discuss strategies and learn more about each other’s issues. Canadian non-governmental groups have always made use of this forum to draw attention to outstanding inequalities at homes or to advance global causes. For example, the UNCSW has been an important lever for women to raise attention about Canada’s treatment of indigenous women when only limited attention was being paid to the matter domestically.
   
This year, Canada sent a 15-person delegation, led by Status of Women Minister Patty Hajdu, one of the largest in recent history, in which four of her federal colleagues, including the ministers of justice and international cooperation participated. Several provincial and territorial ministers of the status of women were also members of the official delegation—as were representatives from key women’s organization including the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Girls Action Foundation, and the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters and Transition Houses.

 

It was an ambitious and diverse delegation where much of the heavy lifting is undertaken away from the limelight. Government officials work assiduously over several days during the UNCSW to come to an agreement on a shared set of priorities and perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for women’s equality in the year ahead. It’s not an easy task and the politics behind the scenes are intense, in part because each country recognizes that while the goal of gender equality is obviously laudable, the cultural and structural conditions required to make meaningful progress are complex, and resistant to change.

 

As Trudeau himself noted at the United Nations, Canada has a long way to go. Despite the historic accomplishment of gender parity in Canada’s federal cabinet, it is only one of two cabinets in Canada to have 50 per cent women—the other being Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s cabinet where women are, in fact, a majority. Setting this aside, women are just 26 per cent of Canada’s federal MPs and women’s representation in provincial and territorial legislatures ranges from a low of nine per cent in Nunavut to a high of nearly 38 per cent in British Columbia. At the current rate of progress, achieving parity in all of Canada’s Parliaments will take several decades, if not another century.
 


In an effort to shift that tide, Equal Voice is launching an ambitious national initiative, Daughters of the Vote. Paying homage to the 100th anniversary of the vote for some women in certain western provinces in Canada, Equal Voice recognizes that it is imperative to invest in future generations of women. To this end, we will be inviting young women from the ages of 16 and 21 to apply to be selected as the representative of their federal riding for an innovative leadership project which will bring them to both their respective provincial or territorial legislature—as well as to Ottawa for a groundbreaking leadership summit on International Women’s Day 2017. Throughout, Equal Voice will be featuring contemporary women leaders who are charting a new path for their organization, sector or government—at whatever level.

 

It’s clear that for gender parity to be a reality in the lifetimes of these young women, the work must start now.

 

The Hill Times 

 

Nancy Peckford is the executive director of Equal Voice. She can be reached at news@hilltimes.com.Follow her on Twitter at @nancypeckford.

 

Link to original http://www.hilltimes.com/2016/03/21/equal-voice-launching-ambitious-national-initiative-daughters-of-the-vote/54649?ct=t(RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN)&goal=0_8edecd9364-397bc89db0-90755301&mc_cid=397bc89db0&mc_eid=685e94e554

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Thanks also to the Government of Canada (Status of Women & Canadian Heritage) for their financial support.