The University of Ottawa’s Equal Voice chapter honoured International Women’s Day on March 8th by hosting a training conference about the importance of female representation within all levels of the political system. Interestingly, the event dichotomized the difficultly of finding positive role models within the media, by featuring three successful and inspirational women who spoke with the attendees about their experience and offered advice.
Equal Voice uOttawa is a campus group aiming to foster an environment in which more women are elected to all levels of government in Canada. The organization also provides opportunities for young women to gain political experience and become involved in the political process. The conference was a day of skill development and inspiration for young women and featured a viewing of the very motivational and eye-opening film “Miss Representation” which was written, directed, and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom.
Following the film, there was a discussion about the importance of the role of media today. This is especially relevant for young females, who fail to find role models in the media due to the widespread objectification of women. It brings to light the issue of girls being bombarded by over sexualized images of women and comparing themselves to an impossible standard, manifesting in the self-objectification.
The event also hosted three speakers; Jen Hunter, the former Vice Chair of the National Capital Region Chapter of Equal Voice, who ran as the Green Party candidate in the 2011 Federal Election, and is a professor at Algonquin College. Ms. Hunter spoke about her experience in the political world and conveyed that no matter the outcome there is always a victory. Moreover, she pointed to the important observation that “women are way harder on women than men are on women” and thus it is crucial that women support each other.
The second speaker was Ms. Anita Vandenbeld who has worked with the United Nations Development Program and the Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe. Ms. Vandenbeld brought an interesting international perspective to the discussion as she has worked in over 20 counties to engage women in political participation and candidacy. In the discussion, she pointed to the barriers for women to political engagement such as stereotypes, family responsibilities, finances and violence and the need for a framework to contest them. The event also featured a toastmaster’s presentation and Raylene Lang-Dion who has been volunteering with Equal Voice for over 9 years, and has lead the National Board of Directors.
The event succeeded to inspire female university students and teach them the skills that assist both candidates and campaigns. Moreover, it provided a safe space to discuss the sexualization and degradation of women in the media and how it affects our political discourse. Especially, in the air of recent campus politics, this event portrayed the power in uniting of both women and men to “Be Her. Support Her. Celebrate Her.”
Equal Voice UOttawa will host their Annual General Meeting tonight, March 28th at 6.00pm, for more information or to learn how to get involved you may contact them through:
Facebook: Equal Voice UOttawa Chapter