I recently watched a thought-provoking documentary called 25 Percent. The purpose of the documentary was to address the underrepresentation of women in political seats, across municipal, provincial, and federal tables. The United Nations set a minimum standard for engagement of women in democracy at 30% and unfortunately Canada stands at 25% across all three levels. To examine why Canadian politics has yet to achieve this minimum standard of gender equality and to discuss some steps that could be taken to ensure that all Canadians are represented in our democracy, the documentary featured the opinions of veteran and new politicians from various political ideologies, and engaged community leaders, academics, as well as young activists.
Although my initial impressions of the documentary were positive, after further reflection I realized that there was an integral aspect of Canadian society that was notably absent from the film. Specifically, the documentary had no consistent representations of racialized women. I watched the documentary again to see if my conclusion was correct and unfortunately it was. Amongst the group of older speakers there was only one woman of color that had a speaking roles, Liz Akano a Vice Principal working in the Thames Valley District School Board. In fairness, the documentary did feature quotes from former Governor General Michelle Jean and Rosemary Brown the First Black Woman elected to parliament. Amongst the participants of the Head Start Change Camp, young girls in the 16-24 age bracket, I was pleased to note that there were more young women of color with prominent speaking roles.
My goal is not to belittle the months of planning and hard work that went into crafting the film. However, for a documentary that stresses the importance of having a diversity of viewpoints, I was disappointed by the inadequate representation of racialized women. Considering that since 1981, the proportion of women of color in Canada has consistently increased, as of 2011 they constitute 20% of the countries population, the equal representation of visible minority women is crucial in any piece of art that highlights aspects of Canadian culture that need to be improved. When thinking about the documentary I could not help but recall my mother excitedly calling me downstairs to watch the swearing in of Michelle Jean, the first black Governor General of Canada. I was only 13 at the time and did not understand the enormity of having someone like me, an immigrant woman of color, occupying a prominent position in Canadian politics. Nearly 10 years later, I now understand why my mom eagerly sent me news clippings of Michelle Jean during her 5 years as Governor General. It is my hope that future documentaries, which highlight the need for greater diversity in government, will feature more visible minority women in prominent speaking roles.
Aramide is a student at Western University studying political sciences.
It’s that time of year again, the time when we reflect on the previous year and resolve to make improvements in the year to come.
Today a lot of us will make resolutions – we will decide to be healthy, to give more, learn more, reduce our waste and on and on the list goes.
What if we could make a resolution to help make real progress in one or all of these areas? Or conversely would we feel comfortable letting someone we don’t know make decisions on the direction our lives will take in the next year? It’s time to add a new resolution to the list – in 2015 let’s all get a little more political!
Here are a few suggestions:
Resolve to take part in London’s Build a Budget process and let this new council know what you see as important. Lots of us may have made the decision this year will be a healthier year or perhaps more specifically we have resolved to bike more. Wouldn’t it be nice to see those healthier choices supported by a strong policy to support bike lane infrastructure? Maybe you want to be greener, would a wet garbage collection help you do that? Maybe you resolved to read more, one item covered under the City budget is funding for Libraries. If you weren’t planning to purchase all those books, let City Council know Libraries are important to you.
Resolve to not only volunteer for charities and causes, but also to advocate for policy changes. Volunteering is a great thing to do but why not take it up a notch and advocate for that charitable cause with your political leaders? If you are giving to homeless shelters let your elected representatives know the way we treat those without permanent residence matters to you!
Resolve to join a party, it’s a great step towards making real change. With most political parties membership allows you to have some influence on party policy, in some cases members are able to choose who will represent them on the ballot. With the Federal election happening this year, this can be incredibly important if we want to see better representation of women (as well as other currently under represented groups in parliament).
Resolve to help out with a campaign. Whether you help put up signs or canvass for a candidate or use your skills in some other way it’s a great way to learn ore about the process and help make change.
Finally, resolve to provide some positive feedback to your elected officials, it can often be a thankless job and tough decisions are going to be made. If you resolved to be a happy more positive person remember to share success stories and words of encouragement to all.
We at Women and Politics are looking forward to 2015, to new challenges, to future successes, and continuing to advocate for more women’s involvement. What will you resolve to do?