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Van Schouwen will be representing the Kanata-Carleton riding at the upcoming Daughters of the Vote conference. Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.

March event to promote discussion on women’s issues in federal politics

This March, one woman, aged 18 to 23, from each federal riding across the country will participate in the inaugural Daughters of the Vote conference on Parliament Hill.

The conference is hosted by Equal Voice, a “national, bilingual, multi-partisan organization dedicated to electing more women to all levels of political office in Canada,” according to the Daughters of the Vote website.

In an interview with the Fulcrum, Nancy Peckford from Equal Voice highlighted that the the Daughters of the Vote conference is held 100 years after some women in Canada were first granted the right to vote at the federal level—women in Québec could not vote until 1940, while Indigenous women were only granted this right in 1960.

“We felt that it was important to recognize 100 years, though the journey is not yet complete,” said Peckford.

Peckford explained that aside from celebrating 100 years of some women first receiving the federal vote, the conference will “underscore the tremendous commitment young women have to be champions for change.”

Among the women participating is Jasmine van Schouwen, a law student at the University of Ottawa who first applied to participate in the conference last year and will be representing the Kanata-Carleton riding.

Van Schouwen believes that this conference will “empower the new generation of women in politics” and help overcome the barriers women face when entering federal politics, such as social norms and a lack of awareness about women’s underrepresentation.

“I was thrilled,” said van Schouwen, when asked how she felt about being selected for the conference. “Especially looking at the other delegates … I’m very excited for this opportunity to find out what my goal is for the next few years.”

The conference will begin on March 6 exclusively for the roughly 70 Indigenous participants, as a way to discuss the history of Indigenous peoples’ engagement in politics and the issues facing Indigenous communities today.

The rest of the 338 participants will arrive that evening for the remaining three days. Events during the conference include a policy day with caucuses on topics ranging from mental health, to climate change, to women’s engagement in STEM.

In addition to these roundtables, there will be a session at the National Arts Centre featuring women in elected office and “cultural icons,” a leadership development day with workshops on skills such as public speaking and advocacy, and the main National Leadership Forum in the House of Commons.

There will also be a gala featuring women members of parliament, senators, and other elected officials. There will also be past women politicians in attendance, whom Peckford said “passed the baton” onto those currently in office. Notable speakers include MP Catherine McKenna, and Kim Campbell, the first woman Prime Minister of Canada.

“I think the biggest thing would be getting to meet this amazing, diverse group of women from across the country,” she said. “They’ve done a great job of choosing women from diverse backgrounds, it’ll be cool to see the challenges of women entering politics.”

Van Schouwen also said that discussion between the participants will allow them to come up with solutions to the issues facing women in politics today, and better affirm their individual ideas.

She believes that girls and young women should be engaged in initiatives such as these because “often times women are on the bench … women’s issues aren’t making it onto the table, they’re not being considered.”

Van Schouwen believes that “the more women we see entering politics, the more people seem willing to enter this field. It seems more attainable—seeing them succeed is inspiring, it makes them feel like they can do it too.”

Jasmine van Schouwen has been a contributor to the Fulcrum for several years, and served as the Fulcrum Publishing Society’s ombudsperson for the 2015-16 publishing year.