On March 8, Equal Voice along with Daughters of the Vote hosted a national event to recognize a century of Women’s suffrage.
While there are only 338 seats to fill at the House of Commons, Newfoundland and Labrador’s 7 seats had 103 applicants. Once the local chapter of Equal Voice in Newfoundland and Labrador found out, they decided to host their own event in the province.
Instead of the 40 seats in the House of Assembly filled with the expected grey haired man, the seats were filled with local young women who hope to, one day be elected to public office.
With only 10 out of 40 seats held by women, and 33 women ever sitting in the seats at the House of Assembly as elected representatives, the gender gap is very real.
Rebecca Gardner, a Political Science student at MUN and MUN Students’ Union Women’s Representative, sat down with the Muse to talk about her experience at the event last week.
“This year marks the 100th anniversary that some women gained the right to vote in Canada. So, equal voice put out an initiative that all 338 seats in the House of Commons would be represented by a [local] woman,” said Gardner.
Gardner says that it was so cool to see so many women represented from so many diverse backgrounds.
“The energy in that house because everyone had so much they want to say, it was just such great discussions about Muskrat Falls, Gender Quotas, and many other provincial issues,” said Gardner.
“Women’s only spaces are crucial for the safety of women. Mainly because we are a diverse population, it’s not just cis-white women. These safe spaces are especially important for those who are minorities, those women especially need these places to go to.”
Gardner says bringing the voices of women to the House of Assembly is all about empowering women in politics and to ensure that they are not silenced.
During the day, Gardner says, the women got to do a mock debate, listen to a panel on women in politics by some of Newfoundland and Labrador’s own women who are in provincial politics, and attend an event at Government House.
Gardner says that the women who attended debated whether or not there should be gender quotas in the House of Assembly, ultimately, the group decided almost unanimously that gender quotas shouldn’t be enacted in the province.
“You want women to be elected because they want to be there. All parties need to focus on how to help stimulate women and how to ensure they engage in the political process. But, to be forcing someone into a seat, isn’t empowering them,” said Gardner.
Gardner says that if we do not offer these women only spaces to women, we will not see a change in the current environment that many women grow-up in.