Equal voices must be heard
The Saskatchewan Equal Voice chapter seeks to support women serving in federal and rural offices.
Article: Paige Kreutzwieser – Staff Writer
With only 18.9 percent female representation in the Saskatchewan Legislature, Equal Voice is looking for change.
The organization is focused on promoting women who are interested and involved in Canadian politics.
Unfortunately, the Saskatchewan chapter started off a on a dormant foot.
“[In 2010] it never really took off…In part because the type of women who were attracted to trying to make sure women got elected into parliament were all super busy women,” said the chapter’s interim chairwoman, Tina Beaudry-Mellor.
A major focus of Equal Voice is to support women who are currently serving in public office.
“Once they are in office, they need someone to stand up and defend them,” explained Beaudry-Mellor.
A recent example of the support needed is with Conservative MP Michelle Rempel. Beaudry-Mellor explained that Rempel was the target of crude and violent Twitter messages.
“Those are examples where Equal Voice needs to standup and say ‘this is not ok and how should the public deal with these sorts of things?’”
What the Saskatchewan chapter is specifically looking to do is bring the focus to rural politics. Beaudry-Mellor attended the national Equal Voice strategic meeting in Ottawa last October. There she noticed a lack of support for the western provinces.
“It is very eastern Canada centric, and they organize events with this is in mind. If we really want to reach out to other women, we really need to think about rural municipalities, and we also really need to reach out to Aboriginal women in band councils and tribal councils.”
Along with the western presence at the national level, the Saskatchewan chapter has other focuses for the upcoming year. Lobbying government and organizations is one of these.
“We ask [all levels of government] ‘what are you doing to try and attract female candidates?’ And, we pressure them to consider female candidates,” explained Beaudry-Mellor.
The Saskatchewan chapter is also looking to involve the younger generation. Beaudry-Mellor knows what type of experience young women can get from being involved in an organization like Equal Voice. But Equal Voice is more than just about experience.
“It is also about changing different models of leadership and how we celebrate and support leadership.”
Beaudry-Mellor would like to see the image of popular women to change from the Kardashians of the world to the Beverley McLachlins or Belinda Stronachs of our country.
“[Society] doesn’t know who those women are and those women are really contributing in really substantive way. Getting young people involved in Equal Voice creates a culture where, especially women, we shift away from thinking how we look and what we wear is not the measure of success and rather there are other measures.”
For Beaudry-Mellor, the networking opportunities with something like Equal Voice is one of the most invaluable features.
“If I could go back to my younger self and find that environment, I wonder where I would be today,” confessed Beaudry-Mellor.
Men are also targets for Equal Voice. “I have long believed that women-only networks will never get you there. If it’s true that men rule the world, then we need male partners in order to change the model of public leadership that is out there.”
If students are looking to get involved, Beaudry-Mellor said Equal Voice has many opportunities. Research, volunteer work, and social media are just a few of the ways.
Although there is still much work to be done, Beaudry-Mellor is pleased with where women are in our country.
“There is an increasing trend in women’s representation and in women’s decision making in society. And I see that as really positive.”