Reflections on the Women’s Campaign School

Sarah Allan, BA, LLB/JD, @SarahElisabethA, Co-founder and Co-Admin of



When I was 15 years old, I got into my first major debate about politics. One of my classmates said that voting was pointless, while I argued vehemently that everyone should vote in order to have their say; that it was our responsibility as part of a democratic society to participate in the process of choosing our leaders. My very patient teacher suggested I put my thoughts down on paper, I’m sure as much to calm me down as to teach me something. What started as a rant about why everyone must vote turned into a thoughtful (for a 15 year old) essay on the reasons youth might not care about politics. My points were many and I felt them all deeply: the voting age was too high, the process was confusing, politicians were hard to identify with, the needs of youth were not being considered, and what difference could one person make anyway? I would later hear this list used to describe the phenomena of ‘voter apathy’ and ‘lack of youth engagement’, but at the time, I only knew what they felt like: frustration.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I began to recognize that these issues were symptoms of a greater problem: a lack of diverse voices in politics. When I was young, it was the lack of young people in politics. Now, I recognize the lack of women in politics, particularly women of colour and Aboriginal women. Today, as an adult and a professional, a lawyer and an activist, I see the value in democracy, I appreciate the responsibility that comes with it, and I have always voted, but I still feel the same frustration I felt when I was young. I have largely channeled that frustration into advocating for social change outside of the political process, studying law and social justice, seeking intelligent and influential women as role models and mentors, and co-founding a website for young people to share their ideas and movements. So I was encouraged to hear Lynda Gerty, Engagement Specialist, assert that many people who are not engaged in the political system are engaged in affecting change in other ways, through social movements and activism, for example (you can see more from Lynda Gerty here or following her on Twitter @thegert).

Still, I have never written off the Canadian political system as a means of change. In my opinion, we have moved past the point of identifying the problem and having to justify why diversity of representation in politics is vitally important. Now we need to find ways to solve the problem and get more women, representing a broad range of backgrounds and experiences, elected and involved. If we achieve this, I have hope that in the future, traditional politics can work with alternative movements to support each other and achieve common goals.

It was this focus on action that attracted me to the Women’s Campaign School in Surrey, BC, in November 2013 ( ). It was inspiring to see women teaching other women the actual skills needed to be a part of a campaign, and to hear politicians who had opened the door for the next generation sharing their experiences and offering guidance. I appreciate the organizers for creating concrete avenues of participation for women, and for providing the space for us to make valuable connections. I applaud their efforts to raise money to sponsor the participation of women for whom the school’s fee might serve as a barrier. These are actual solutions to the problem that will lead to greater participation by women in government, and ultimately greater participation by voters, and that will ensure that we feel truly represented as a range of experiences are brought to the table when decisions are made that affect us all.

Sarah Allan, BA, LLB/JD, @SarahElisabethA, Co-founder and Co-Admin of