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Women & Politics London, in partnership with Diverse Voices for Change (an initiative by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities), is hosting a one-day event where prospective candidates can learn skills to run an effective municipal campaign and Londoners who want to engage more with the City can learn about civic engagement opportunities. While our focus is to encourage women of diverse communities to attend, this event is open to all.
Our day will begin with our keynote speaker Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto City Councillor, and then the sessions will be divided in two streams:
Stream 1: Campaign School – learn about fundraising, friendraising, data management, canvassing, and volunteer coordiantion.
Stream 2: Civic Engagement – learn different ways you can volunteer with the City of London and sit on their advisory committees, boards, and commissions.
The day will conclude with a panel of former women politicians who will share their journey in politics.
A more detailed agenda will be shared with participants closer to the date.
*Lunch will be provided and childminding will be available.
Getting there: This is an accessible location. Parking is available behind the building and alongside the building facing Clarence Street. There are several bus routes to get to Pathways including the 7, 3,11,15,13, and the 26.
I signed up for the event: “Diverse Voices for Change Workshop – Engaging Women in Municipal Government” with a simple goal: to meet people and hear their diverse stories. This goal was not only well achieved but also vastly exceeded after the two-day extensive and intensive workshop.
The workshop was compact in design and rich in content. There were activities for participants to talk deeply with each other; carefully-chosen municipal issues to discuss, and role play scenarios to experience door-to-door campaigning. There was also hands-on advice on how to run a campaign step by step. What’s more, we were very fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with three female city councillors discussing some challenges specifically facing women, such as how to balance between career and family and how to express oneself in a male-dominated political arena.
I learned so much from the workshop, but what was more rewarding was getting to know so many outstanding women participants. We have an entrepreneur who owns a consulting business and runs a NGO website as a single mother/grandmother; a strong woman who had suffered so much hardship in the past but strived hard to shape a better future, never thinking of giving up; and a 20 year-old young college student who has already been active in NGOs for years and has designed a detailed 10-year working plan toward her dream.
I always know that people, especially women are all incredible individuals, and as the Ancient Chinese Saint Confucius once said, “Three people walking together, there must be a teacher of mine among them”. That is why I’m always keen to talk to people. But this two-day interaction let me feel more convinced that everyone is each other’s teacher and what I learned from them will be beneficial for a lifetime.
Frankly speaking, I was not really in to politics. I’ve always been fascinated by culture and the humanities, which seemed warm and robust, and on the contrary, politics seemed cold and pretentious. But the talk with the three female councillors changed my view completely. Sitting in front of us were ordinary women just like us – mothers, wives – who never thought about entering politics. It was a love for community and a passion to improve the status quo that brought them to the seat of city council, where they are able to transfer that love and passion to real policies helping ordinary people like me.
So I ask myself, and I’m sure many are thinking the same question, if they can achieve this, why can’t I? Maybe not entering politics at this moment, but there are so many things that I can do right now using my skills. I’ll certainly continue to do what I’ve always liked – networking, communicating with people, and participating in all kinds of grass root activities. And besides that, I’ll try to contribute by volunteering, with the first step as volunteering for Women & Politics, for immigrant employment, an issue facing most newcomers like me, or just writing this blog post.
Small steps matter too. Small steps, when gathered together, pave a long way.
Yihan Li came to London from China in July 2016 with her husband. Before that, she also lived in Japan for seven years. She worked as an online sales & marketing manager in the tourism Industry for six years. Her interest areas include digital marketing, E-commerce, travel, and yoga. It is also one of her greatest passions to embrace new cultures and interact with people of different backgrounds.
On October 9th 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot at 15 years old for fighting back against a group of individuals who demanded she not have the right to education. Malala was not shot because she went to school, many other girls who went to school were not targeted, it was her want for more that left her with a bullet through her head. It was her ability to see that she was smart, that she could be successful, and that she was not afraid to strive for greatness that made her so scary, men felt the need to shoot her down- literally.
The shooting left Malala, a young and innocent girl, in critical condition. If I had to guess, the point of the shooting was to kill her, but her being in a coma was something the Taliban could settle for, just so long as they showed the rest of the young women that these were the repercussions of standing up for your rights and trying to be heard. We know the rest of the story; Malala did not die. She went on to do great things and be the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize.
Why is this story relevant? We live in a society where women have education right?
That is only part of the struggle.
It can be scary, as a woman, to try to reach for positions of power- even in places like Canada and America. We saw in this last presidential election, as Hilary Clinton thought she would be making her way to a party with a roof top that looked like “the glass was shattering” as she became the first female president, her world shattered as the T.V.’s announced Donald Trump’s name instead. But even if we don’t always come out on the other side and even if things don’t always go the way we want, isn’t it not worth a shot?
It is crucial that women strive to build themselves foundations in politics because women are half of the population, thus it only makes sense they are represented when it comes to the world we live in and the laws that dictate how we can behave. There are so many issues in our world, like abortion, that women should be on the forefront of, and instead men who will never have to deal with these issues are the main people deciding what can and what cannot be done. Women are just as capable, just as smart, and just as educated in relation to politics, yet “when asked would you consider running for office in Canada?”, 18% of males responded yes while only 12% of females did.
Women and men, they can both do similar jobs. I am sure both men and women are equally qualified with the right amount of education and knowledge. The question is, is it worth fighting for?
For Malala, education and the right to be heard, was worth fighting for. And even though her situation is not of the same severity, it is no different than women standing up for themselves in the developed parts of the world to be heard and to not be silenced by politicians who want to take the world back to times without funding of necessities for women.
The Taliban threatened Malala, so she could feel as though she was not capable of creating change. And although all men do not do this in the world we live in today, some do and it is important that women do not feel as though they are not capable of change. Women are- just like men are. The Taliban thought they shut down Malala when the bullet went through her head, little did they know, that bullet was what woke her up. That bullet was the reason she could go on and receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
All women are capable of great things, especially when it comes to the world of politics. No matter what pressures are still present today in the 21st century, women pushing back and striving for more- just like Malala did- will eventually lead them to a pot of gold called freedom, equality, and greatness.
My name is Lujane Al-Azem and I am one of the candidates for Ward 5 in the 2017 LYAC elections. I attend A.B. Lucas Secondary School and love to participate in extracurricular activities including Model United Nations, the Muslim Student Association, and Relay for Life. It is such a pleasure to be part of organizations that wish to provide youth the chance to be celebrated and heard.
Why do we need more women in politics? I remember this question being strikingly addressed by my business law professor. His words struck a chord, especially in light of some of the recent events that have occurred across the border.
He said, more women are needed in politics, because a diversity of opinion is needed on the political stage. When issues such as women’s labour force participation rate are debated, we need women representatives who can speak up and fight for the best course of action.
An age-old debate exists, calling to question the fairness of such affirmative action. The best candidate for the situation should be chosen, it is said, regardless of gender.
Yet it is our individual experiences that may make us a better fit for a position than some others. It is a fact that that being born a certain gender, race or class, shapes our experiences. An Aboriginal woman may never experience the privilege that a white woman was born to, and that same white woman may never get the chances afforded to her male counterpart. Each individuals’ struggle to live thus defines them.
I say all this, not to set anyone’s backs up, or debate privilege, but to state a simple fact: Every individual’s experiences matter. And they matter even more so on the political stage. When issues are debated, decisions are made, and laws are passed, they affect everyone. If such decisions affect you, would you not want to have a voice in their making?
Currently in Canada, as of 2015 statistics, women make up 50% of the population but only have 25% representation (1). And women’s involvement in the labour force has stalled at 82% compared to 91% for men (2). Such problems are not restricted to being an equality and equity issue, they have economic and social impact. The more women that take up position in the political arena – collaborating on decisions made by women for women, the greater the overall economy will do. The working mother who struggles to reintegrate into the work force after having a child; the Aboriginal woman who has not received similar access to education and other resources that many may take for granted, all of them will have a greater chance of success. And their success will translate into the success of their families.
It makes economic sense, it makes social sense to gain more representation, to fight for it. We have a case of if not us then who? It is us, all of us, who have to raise our voices and be heard. This should not be a divisive issue, rather a collaborative one. An issue where all sides recognize the benefits of greater representation, and then aim to create practical change.
This is one of the reasons why I am running as a Youth Councillor for the London Youth Advisory Council. And I hope such opportunities will be a stepping stone not just for me, but for every woman who wishes to make her mark, and create lasting change.
Zahra Naqvi is a candidate in Ward 10 for the 2017 London Youth Advisory Council.
Since the inception of Women & Politics, we have advocated that local government policies need to be more inclusive of all women and genders. Whether it be the London Plan, the Municipal Budget, or any policy/service that the City provides, the voices and experiences of all women need to be included in a more meaningful and concrete way. In addition, this work needs to go beyond gender to centre racialized, Indigenous and newcomer women who are noticeably absent from many decision-making processes and leadership roles. While white women make gains (albeit incrementally) in many of these areas, women from diverse communities are left even further behind.
So, we are excited to share that London has been chosen as one of the communities for the Diverse Voices for Change Project through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. This initiative is to increase the number of women from diverse communities who are actively informed by, and engaged in, local government decision-making. Five municipalities, including London, Sioux Lookout, Montreal, Halifax and Edmonton will engage racialized, Indigenous and newcomer women in local decision-making processes and leadership roles.
The City of London, along with Women and Politics as a community partner, will work with women from diverse communities to implement strategies, recommendations, policies and procedures within the city that better represent women from racialized, Indigenous and newcomer backgrounds.
We are excited that the City of London has made the commitment to this project and is taking steps forward in becoming more inclusive and representative of all Londoners. This is just one step of many that needs to be taken, and we will continue to push our local government to be more responsive to gender and diversity needs in our City on all fronts. Stay tuned for more updates as this project moves forward and get in touch with us if you are interested in learning more or being involved in any of the work we do.
The past week has been a trying time for our city, and in particular, for the family members impacted by this situation. We are grateful that the Integrity Commissioner has provided his report so promptly, which will hopefully allow London to move forward, and continue with the business of running our city.
As the Integrity Commissioner has stated, “the public nature of these disclosures and the resulting public comment and criticism is in and of itself a significant penalty.” While some Londoners will be satisfied with this, some will not, and the calls for resignations continue.
We hope Councillor Cassidy continues to contribute to our community whether through her continued role on Council or in other capacities. She has been a strong voice for Ward 5 and an effective Councillor. Nevertheless, we are disappointed by the Mayor and former Deputy Mayor’s multiple breaches in the code of conduct, and we must move on from here. We cannot afford to lose momentum on critical priorities for our community.
As we move forward, we need to continue to commit to diversity on Council. We need more women on council, not less. We also need more diversity in the leadership roles at the top. Diverse lived experiences at the table means that decisions made by council represent the full spectrum of Londoners. Diversity makes the decisions better grounded and more informed. As council moves forward in the selection of a new Deputy Mayor, we highly encourage them to consider diversity – including gender – as a priority for the role.
Here is a collection of stories from our March “Women Who Inspire” event.
The woman I have met in my education career who are mothers of children of autism. Not only do these women juggle career, family and self, they are faced with challenges often beyond their control each and every day. These women have become advocates, professors, and support systems to others mothers with children on the spectrum. These women even do this on their own and with very little interaction and support from the outside. Their love for their children is inspirational. They are my heroes.
I find I admire women more than I am inspired by them. Most women I am exposed to in real life are full of fear, who aspire to get married, get a house, have children. I can’t relate, I don’t live in fear and am usually the inspiration for others as a result. I am looking to be inspired by women in real life and in my community and thought Women & Politics would be a good start. So far, Shawna has inspired me to show up….so, so far, so good! Thank you for hosting this event, I look forward to more. – Jennifer
Michelle Landsberg – I am too young to really remember her advocacy in the 70s but recently read “Writing the Revolution” – a really terrific look back at the bravery of our early feminists who moved the needle in journalism! She made it easier for us all.
Margaret H who at 100 published her first book (2016) “Call Me Ma’am” about her time during the second world war as a psychologist helping recruit women into the Canadian Army. – Dharshi
My mom – She got her Master’s Degree P/t while raising 5 children. At 50 she decided to go to school full – time to get her PhD. She graduated at 55 & went on to teach World Politics at the University of Windsor and she did this all while married to my dad a reluctantly supportive chauvinist. – Marnie
Charlotte Montgomery who was my boss and mentor 41 years ago. I will never forget Charlotte sharing that when the men went to World War II there were only women to do the men’s work and as soon as the men returned the women were sent back to be housewives, Teachers or Nurses. Charlotte did teach for many years and then started as a Teller at the CIBC and worked her way up to Assistant manager, Benefits Department. When I worked with Charlotte I don’t recall any women managers. I think she paved the way for many managers and women U.P.’s to come. – Louise
My sister who, despite being recruited by the company itself, overcame a reputation of only getting the job to fill a quota of women employees. Not only does she now lead her team, she is by far one of the best computer programmers I know. Oh, did I mention she achieved all these goals in her career while also raising two small children by herself? When I think of the term “Super Woman” or “Super Mom” I think of Julie. – Janice
Shawna Lewkowitz for supporting & making spaces for women of all types in so many ways, but especially via founding Women & Politics London – Laura
My mom because she’s constantly pushing me to try new things and speak up for myself – Beah
Me – I say myself as I’ve kept on keeping on despite the cards dealt. I don’t see plenty of women of colour in political leader roles so I teach my children that they can, even if I don’t reach politics. 12 years ago I was addicted to crack cocaine and came to London with $10 in my pocket and a knapsack on my back and 6 months pregnant. In 4 months, my partner and I secured our place and our children were returned to us. Since then I’ve worked our way up. Still have a long way to go but I am not where I was and that is just part of the story! Also, not enough women of colour are represented. – Toni
My Mum – I spoke to her brilliance and resilience in her campaign for NDP representative, but to say that was what inspired me wouldn’t do her justice. It was AMAZING yes, but it’s so much more. She strives to live her life as an example for my sister and I. She volunteers, she works, she speaks. She is my superhero. Every day she does her best for my family, for her community and for herself. How flippin’ cool is that? – Gabriella
My friend Vanessa. She is a woman who has overcome so much. Poverty, adoption, colourization, mental health, addictions, housing insecurity and more. I watch her raise her beautiful family with so much love and grace. I see her developing into a young leader in the community with passion. I am always inspired by how she does all of this and grounds herself in what she’s overcome and she uses it to give herself strength instead of just putting it in the past and burying it. Our worst days give us what we need to create our most beautiful ones. – Suze
Marnie Sherritt – one of the three founders of Project 88. Our goal was to elect more women to City Council. In our 20-year work, we moved to 40% women on City Council. Marnie was always there, making muffins for our “How to run for elected office”, doing registrations, obtaining lists of candidates, mailing invitations to candidates. In fact, she did all the slug work while being absolutely reliable – and she still is.
My Daughter – who calls out gender based violence in her grade 5 class even when it isolates her. – Jodi
I am inspired by my teacher because she is nice.
My mother lost her mom when she was young and was moved into C.A.S and moved from home to home, eventually running away and living on the streets, homeless and finding meals in dumpsters. She quit school in grade 9 to work to get money to eat. She got pregnant at 17. She married and had two more kids, then divorced and worked so hard to make ends meet. She did whatever she could to not only make sure we had what we needed but often it was not unusual to see other kids from the neighbourhood at our house for dinner or staying for a week, month, even longer when their parents were going through problems. She was a tough mom but only when we needed it. She worked during the day and did school at night to earn her degree. She also made sure she gave back to the community, telling us it was her job to set an example for us; she has coached more than 100 kids competitive soccer, was the first female head coach of a club and many other firsts in the soccer world. She is also a very strong advocate for people who live in poverty, especially women. Every month she puts aside $50 and quietly picks one women in London who needs a hand and helps them. Last month it was a young girl going back to school who needed school supplies, the month before a young mom whose son was very ill in the hospital — she paid all of her parking. This and so very much more makes my mom my (and many others’) number one inspiration!! – Sarah
My Mom – my first example of what it looks like to be a leader. – Jodi
We had our first Young Women and Politics workshop in April at the Northwest Resource Centre. 24 girls and young women came together to learn about politics, socialize and meet local female politicians. Participants were asked to write a blog post to reflect on their experiences. Here are posts from two of the amazing young women who attended.
My experience at the Young Women and Politics Session
My experience at the Young Women and Politics session was amazing. There are so many reasons why this session was a very tremendous experience for me. I have gone to many workshops for young women and how to feel confident, but Women and Politics really showed a perspective on inner beauty. The beauty of leadership. As many will know, being a leader is a very difficult task when it comes to politics for women. But this workshop was eye-opening in terms of options for young women in politics. A big part for me at this session was how they talked about the word “Feminist.” This word at first may be scary to some people. It was for me at first — until Women & Politics. They’ve really showed me that this word only means equality. Equality in the sense of being equal between men and women. I found it eye-opening to see that a word that sounds so strong could be just a simple well-known fact to me. Ever since I’ve heard that, I’ve been telling people that I’m a feminist and that is something I thought I would never say. Another big aspect that really caught my attention was “Breaking through barriers.” This was a big part that stuck with me even after the session was done. After hearing that term, I was really starting to see the barriers that occurred everyday that I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t been to the workshop. Everyday stuff, like how I noticed that my gym teacher picks boys to be team leaders and not girls. This really caught my eye and I was surprised to see it. In summary, Women and Politics demonstrated that being a leader and confidence is the best beauty a girl can have. -Christina Keane Sanchez (13)
Turning 25% into 50%
I went to the “Young Women and Politics” event last weekend and I thought it would be good just to have some background knowledge on politics but I actually learned so much! I learned that there are no lines like everyone thinks there is to get involved in politics, what the real– not what society thinks — meaning of a feminist or feminism is, what it’s like to be a politician as a woman and how we can get in involved. There is no line between politicians and “regular people”; you can call your local MP and talk about how you can get involved helping out with your community and move up from there.
“The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Society thinks that we want to be better than men but the definition says “equality to men.” We don’t want to be compared to men like, “Oh you can’t go into politics, that’s for a man.” Even if those aren’t the exact words, it’s implied. Only 25% of the politicians are women. I would definitely go to something like this again and I encourage other girls to come out as well so we can turn that 25% into 50%! – Georgia Harrington
Margaret Hoff inspires me because I have been hearing her voice for many years. She has the courage, passion and commitment to give voice to issues of importance in London; issues that may be controversial, issues that challenge the ‘status quo’. Margaret continues to give voice even when ignored, shut down, or strongly opposed. She makes things happen – no matter how long or hard she has to invest to do it! She founded London’s Daycare Services Committee, worked on London’s Governance Task Force, focused community efforts on transit, housing and electoral reform. Most importantly to me as a member of Women and Politics, she co-founded Project 88 with other inspiring women. This went on to be Project 91, 94, 97 and 2000, an important initiative to get more women elected in London. She continues to work on behalf of women in our community, and provides advice to our Women and Politics group. Her voice makes a difference, and inspires others to raise their voices. We can do so much with our united voices, so let’s all be inspired by Margaret and use our collective voice to make London a better place for women!