Let me preface this post by saying that I am not a mom – unless of course you count my two fur-babies.
That said, I do want to shed some light on raising kids on the political front lines. I can’t speak from the experience of a parent, but I can speak from the experience of a child. One raised by a single mom with a loud voice and unshakable values. A child who managed to survive unscathed into her mid-20’s despite the picket lines, protests, marches and campaigns that filled my childhood.
At the October Pints and Politics, the meet-up that laid some important foundations for the launch of this group, we had a great discussion about the barriers that women face in participating in and engaging with politics. One of the biggest barriers our conversation focussed on was family responsibilities.
A big question of the night was “how can I find supports for child-care while I’m off helping with a campaign or running for office?”
Many answers turned to the rallying of community support. Having friends and neighbours to step in and lend a hand. While of course this is important, my answer was a bit different. Bring your kids with you and give them the education and experience of a lifetime.
I remember when my teachers went on strike in 1997 – I was 9. Bundled in the cold fall weather, sitting in camping chairs on the picket lines between my mom and my phys-ed teacher, my mom taught me about picket lines, the history of unions and what it was my teachers were standing up for.
I remember later that year when there was snow on the ground, picketing in front of our MPPs office and proudly waving my sign that read “education is a right.” Not only did my mom teach me how to carry a sign post tucked into my coat pocket so my arms wouldn’t get tired, but also about what it meant to be an MPP and what their responsibilities to their constituents where.
I remember in my teenage years, marching with my hand drum learning to make noise; speaking at rallies and turning that noise into a powerful message; collecting petition signatures and learning how to take that voice and add it to a powerful chorus with others.
All of these memories and lessons have stuck with me in way that 90 per cent of my formal education hasn’t.
Engage your kids in the process, teach them how to think critically about issues that affect them, and show them first-hand that they can change the world.
I am happy to announce the launch of our new blog and to share with you the story of how Women and Politics, a citizen-led initiative that looks to engage and increase the participation of women in the political landscape, came to be.
In October we hosted a very successful Pints and Politics discussion on women and the barriers they face in participating in politics. A double-work day, lack of role models, negative environment, overt focus on women’s appearances and an absence of women’s perspectives were just a few of the reasons identified as to why women may be reluctant to participate or engage with politics.
It is recognized that although many women are active in their communities, many are reluctant to acknowledge how this participation connects to politics. Because of this it was decided that a space was needed for women to have meaningful conversations about politics and community. A space where we could actively work to increase the participation of women as both citizens and candidates at all levels of government and look at policy issues from a gendered lens.
With a 2014 municipal election on the horizon we felt the time was particularly ripe for us to come together and create change.
We held our first official meeting in November and about 20 women of varying ages, backgrounds and perspectives came out to help shape the direction of the group. Many different activities were proposed including this blog, a citizen tool kit, ‘field trips’ to city council meetings, educational workshops on citizen tools (letter writing, making a delegation to council etc..), telling the stories of women politicians, reaching out to marginalized communities, get-out-to-vote campaigns and more.
Our next meeting is January 20, 2014 where we will continue the planning process and also host a local politician who will share her story about her path to politics. Stay tuned for registration information.
As our group is non-partisan, we hope to represent a variety of political viewpoints here. We will have several different authors writing for the blog and will welcome additional guest posts that fit our mandate.
We look forward to engaging in meaningful conversations and making new connections.
They may make up about half the population, but women don’t have the voice they deserve.
That’s what a new London group, Women in Politics, is saying. And its members are out to redress the balance, encouraging more women to get involved.
Starting as an offshoot of the engagement group Pints and Politics, they’ve already had one meeting and are looking ahead to next year’s municipal election. So if you’re a politician, get ready to be scrutinized through a “gender lens.”
“We’re going into an election, but how many women are going to run?” asked Women in Politics coordinator Shawna Lewkowitz.
She added: “Women’s voices aren’t being heard and valued as strongly in the community.
“We’re looking for women to step forward and be engaged and to be acknowledged in their engagement.”
Just weeks ago, the United Nations said that 30 per cent of candidates need to be women before their views can be represented properly.
London already has five female council members out of 15, but the London group wants to keep it that way – and improve the figure if it can.
There are three goals. They want to increase the representation of women during and after elections, but also their participation in politics at all levels, including behind the scenes on campaigns. There’s also a need to make political issues more accessible to women, because often there are barriers to them taking part.
So that’s where Lewkowitz’s “gender lens” comes in. Political issues will be examined from a female point of view.
For example, take transport. Lewkowitz said the debate doesn’t always emphasize women’s needs, like access at the right times, space for strollers or safety late at night.
So the members of Women in Politics want to make it easier for women to speak out. They plan meetings with female politicians as guest speakers, visits to campaigns and to city hall and a “citizen kit” which explains issues and how to have a say.