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.