Activity: Empowerment and recommendations

Read through the following recommendations, policies, and actions related to women’s participation in political life in Canada. Decide where they fit in the framework for empowerment. Keep in mind that a recommendation, policy or action may fit in more than one category.

1.    All women are given the right to vote.

Gender imposed

Gender blind

Gender aware

Gender responsive

Transformative

2.    Women are not allowed to run in elections or hold public office.

Gender imposed

Gender blind

Gender aware

Gender responsive

Transformative

3.    During a recent election, research indicated that female candidates received less media airtime than males.

Gender imposed

Gender blind

Gender aware

Gender responsive

Transformative

4.    Woman only hold political positions related to women’s and/or children’s issues.

Gender imposed

Gender blind

Gender aware

Gender responsive

Transformative

5.    A women’s affairs office is established in national government.

Gender imposed

Gender blind

Gender aware

Gender responsive

Transformative

6.    A pay equity bill that guarantees equal pay for equal work passes into law.

Gender imposed

Gender blind

Gender aware

Gender responsive

Transformative

7.    Political parties create quotas to ensure that at least 35% of candidates running for election are women.

Gender imposed

Gender blind

Gender aware

Gender responsive

Transformative

8.     An openly queer woman is elected to lead a federal government.

Gender imposed

Gender blind

Gender aware

Gender responsive

Transformative

Commentary

1. Until 1917, women in Canada were denied the right to vote. Winning the right to vote was consequently transformative for women and for the political system because it represented a fundamental shift in whose voices and opinions shaped the government of the day. While voting rights have been extreme important, they are only the first step towards full political participation for women. Indeed, the fact that both women and men are able to vote, today represents a gender-blind policy. It assumes that men and women have the same needs and experiences and consequently gives them exactly the same things.

2. Not allowing women to run in elections or hold political office falls under the category of gender imposed because it excludes women from the same civil and political rights as men on the basis of gendered stereotypes of behaviour and ability. Until 1921, women in Canada were not allowed to run in federal elections because this right was reserved for “persons” in the British North America Act and women were not considered “persons”. Five women challenged this interpretation and were allowed to run in the federal election. Agnes Macphail was elected and became Canada’s first female Member of Parliament.

3. Collecting and reporting research data by sex would fall under the gender aware category because it recognizes that men and women may have different needs and experiences. But the results of the survey suggest that the media and/or audiences are operating with gender-imposed values. The imbalance of attention candidates receive on the basis of sex – rather than ability – suggests that gender stereotypes are affecting public and media reactions. This imbalance may put female candidates at an unfair disadvantage and contribute to reinforcing gender stereotypes.

4. In some contexts, this statement represents a gender-imposed situation. When women are only able to hold political positions related to women’s and/or children’s issues, traditional gender roles and stereotypes related to the gendered division of labour are reinforced and maintained. In other contexts, where women have never been allowed to hold positions of power or where the different needs of women and men have been ignored, this policy or practice might be considered gender-aware or even gender-responsive.

5. Establishing an agency devoted to women’s concerns falls under the category of gender-aware because it acknowledges that women have distinct needs and experiences. It is also an example of a gender-responsive intervention because it moves from simply recognizing differences to creating a tailored response to meet the needs of women at the policy level.

6. For many decades, women’s rights activists and other allies have worked diligently to ensure that individuals are paid the same amount of money for the same jobs, regardless of their sex and/or gender. While the Canadian bill of rights guarantees equality and freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex – and ten other categories – women and men still do not receive the same pay for the same work. On average, women currently make approximately 20% less than men. Creating the conditions to enforce a pay equity law would be transformative because it would hold employers legally responsible for paying the same wages for the same work, regardless of the sex and/or gender of their employees. [1]

7. While women constitute more than half of the population, they do not hold half of the positions in government and the positions they do hold are often less powerful than those held by men. Women are often marginalized in positions of political decision-making, including in Parliament, which is responsible for creating our laws. Creating quotas to ensure that at least 35% of candidates running for elections are women recognizes the need for increased representation of women in positions of leadership and is an example of a gender-aware intervention. It also falls under the category of gender-responsive because it is a tailored strategy to increase women’s representation in positions of power to engage in law-making. Potentially, this example is also transformative because it promotes structural changes within political parties and Parliament. Although laws like this are being implemented in other countries, such as Poland, it has not yet been adopted in Canada.

8. Having an openly queer woman elected to lead a government would be considered transformative for two reasons: there has never been a female or an openly queer individual elected to hold the position of Prime Minister of Canada. Kim Campbell, our first and only female Prime Minister, was not elected. She was formally appointed to this role by the Governor General when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announced his retirement from politics before his term of office was complete. She was not successful in the following election. Furthermore, while a number of gay men and lesbian women have been Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers, Members of Provincial Legislatures, and have led major political parties, there has never been an openly queer Prime Minister leading Canada.

Source: [1] http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2010-30-e.pdf

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