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In March last year, women and labor groups made a rather bold move against the federal government on gender inequality in Canada by submitting to the United Nations conference on women, a statement stating that the Harper government has failed to implement women’s equality actions.
They continued to say that progress has been made but not enough as the government wanted the world to believe (Hanson). Jasmeet Sidhu says in his article in the Star ‘Gender inequality distorts Politics,’ that since Canada elected Agnes MacPhail into the House of Commons in 1921, the country has made major steps in bridging the gap between men and women in terms of opportunities. Gains have been made on access to higher education where more than half of all students in undergraduate level programs are women.
In the labor market though, a lot of inequalities still abound. In academia for example male doctorate holders have twice as much chance as women to be appointed as full professors. Women in this sector also earn about 79 cents of every dollar men take home (Hanson).
The domain that brings a lot of contention and which is very important according to Sidhu is the political roles. In order for the country to consider itself truly an equal opportunity society, as the government wanted to portray in the last year’s UN conference on Women, providing equal opportunities to women in political arena is very important.
Women in politics are fully engaged in decision making which affect the whole country rather than waiting for policies to be made without their input which affects them negatively. Engaging women in politics also benefits other aspects of their life as Sidhu says by equipping them with skills that are very essential in this rapidly changing and competitive society.
Active participation in politics also develop women’s confidence, leadership skills and self esteem since in politics one is able to horn her communication and public speaking skills. Another benefit for women engaging in politics is that they gain an understanding of issues and their root causes and thereby becoming active and well equipped citizens who seek solutions to community and world needs.
Despite all these benefit women can gain from political involvement, our women, who are considered as the most talented and progressive in the world, are left out when it comes to political representation as Sidhu states. In the last federal elections for example, only 20.7% of all positions were held by women who constitutes 52% of the total population of the country.
In the provincial elections, things were the same with states such as Ontario recording only 26% of seats won by women. As if this is not enough, Canada is placed at the 47th position internationally in female representation in national parliaments; a clear show of how our democracy is failing day by day. Countries such as Rwanda, Afghanistan, Uganda and Iraq which come among the poorest in the world or the most conflicted areas come ahead of us in this one (Hanson).
Sidhu wonders in this article how come women who are ranked so highly in the world in terms of education and skills are ragging behind in the most important roles as decision makers. This should be blamed on the political systems which has flowed opportunity structures that do not appeal to women. This fact was established by the 1970 Royal commission on the status of women. 30 years on and political parties have yet to put in place practical mechanisms in recruiting and supporting women at the constituency level.
Gender inequalities in the political arena are the most embarrassing for our democracy. Being ranked lower than some of the poorest and most conflicted countries of the world is no laughing matter and should be addressed radically. This will start from the political parties at the grass root recruiting and supporting women and changing their nomination process. They should create quota systems to encourage more women to participate in elective positions.
Hanson, Tom. “Gender equality in Canada stalled or regressing: report.” The Canadian Press 21 February 2010.
Sidhu, Jasmeet. “Gender inequality distorts politics.” The Star 27 November 2007.