by Ursula Kroestch
When I ask myself why it is important for women to be involved in politics, I always come back to the same conclusion; to me, women’s involvement in politics indicates that our social norms are changing and we are progressing towards gender equality. We are a unique group in society, and our access to political participation reflects the value society places on our gender rights. Unfortunately, despite several generations of legislative and policy changes, we have yet to eradicate unequal gender relations in Canadian politics. Instead, when you compare the number of female politicians to male politicians, our numbers remain shockingly low despite the fact that we represent 50%+ of the general population. As women, we continue to experience social, cultural, economic and educational barriers that prevent us from entering politics and that uphold gender inequality in the public sphere.
While I am hopeful that one day women will no longer face gendered barriers to political participation, I am also amazed at the role these barriers play on our lives and how they affect our opportunities. As someone who works in social services, I have seen how low-income women are additionally limited to participating in politics. Many of my clients are single mothers who, like me, face socio-economic barriers to entering politics. They are generally held responsible for the wellbeing of their families above and beyond the responsibilities prescribed to fathers. These women are asked to be primary caretakers, homemakers and ultimately, to put the needs of their families above and beyond all else, including themselves. Subsequently, they are further pushed into the private sphere away from the public sphere, where they have little to no participatory role in politics.
I value female participation at all women at all levels of government. The rights of low-income women, must also include the ability to participate. To continue to move forwards, I think women should oppose the barriers that prevent all of us from equal representation. We should push our way into the public sphere, where we can finally protect our right to equality.