In celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day, President Najva Amin has written an op-ed on the leadership that Liberals at all levels have demonstrated by pledging for gender parity.
International Women’s Day is both an opportunity to celebrate the success of women worldwide and to challenge ourselves to work even harder towards the goal of gender parity. There is much to celebrate, of course. Women are entering politics like never before at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. The election of Ontario’s first female premier in 2013 and the influx of new female MP’s in the 2015 federal election are opportunities to celebrate the enormous strides that inspiring women across the country have taken towards the goal of gender parity.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Pledge for Parity”, because true progress can only be achieved if each and every one of us commit to protecting and advancing the status of women. Under the leadership of Justin Trudeau and Kathleen Wynne, Canada has become a global example of the impact of elevating the role of women in politics. Parity in politics has long deserved to be a serious goal of government policy, and we are proud that the Liberal Party has finally given this issue the importance it fully deserves.
Nowhere has the progressive impact of placing forward-looking women in positions of power been more evident than the Kathleen Wynne government. Since her historic rise to the helm of Ontario politics in 2013, our Premier has lead the province with effective leadership and inspiring foresight. Under her guidance, Ontario has become a pioneering leader in the fight against sexual assault.
Last March, Kathleen Wynne unveiled her ambitious “It’s Never Okay” initiative, a multifaceted attack on sexual violence and harassment. Legislation that protect women on campus and in the workplace have been strengthened. Barriers preventing sexual assault victim from coming forward have been eliminated. The “Who Will You Help’ ad campaign has gone viral and challenged millions to stand up against harassment. Clearly, we need female (and male) leaders like Kathleen Wynne and Justin Trudeau to keep fighting to elevate the role of women throughout Ontario and Canada.
During the 2015 campaign, Prime Minister Trudeau pledged that a Liberal Cabinet would have an equal number of men and women, something that was sadly unprecedented at the time. The Liberals followed through in November of 2015, when it was announced that female MP’s, many of them newly elected, would be at the helm of important Ministries in the newly minted Trudeau Government. From Chrystia Freeland as Minister of International Trade to Jane Philpott as Minister of Health, there are now more women in influential positions than ever before. This will finally put issues that impact women at the forefront of government policy. More importantly, it will inspire young women across the country to join the push for gender parity within their communities.
The Liberal government’s drive towards effective female leadership goes far beyond Cabinet appointments. Prime Minister Trudeau has recently appointed Katie Telford as his chief of staff, a position at the center of the government’s decision making process. Katie is one of many women who have taken high level positions within the Prime Minister’s trusted team of advisors. This continues at the provincial level, where many ofthe Premier’s most senior and closest advisors are filled by women. The importance of this cannot be overstated. The Liberal Party knows that myopic, ineffective governance is impossible to avoid without female leadership at all levels of the decision making process.
Our Party’s dedication to female leadership extends all the way to the Ontario Young Liberals (OYL), where the OYL Executive is full of driven female leaders. Empowering passionate young women to take up leadership roles within our party helps breakdown barriers preventing women from entering politics and achieving true gender parity. In doing so, our OYL Executive is developing the next generation of female politicians.
Despite all these signs of hope, there is still much to be done. The World Economic Forum predicted in 2015 that the global gender gap would stubbornly persist until 2133. The Prime Minister knows that we cannot wait patiently for discrimination against women to vanish. This is why Canada has become a global leader in the protection of women’s rights. We have shown leadership by using gender equality analysis to guide our international development programs. We have been applauded by the UN for our government’s long overdue Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. This kind of global leadership is necessary if discrimination against women is ever to be truly eliminated.
As a progressive party in power on both the federal and provincial level, the Liberal Party has accepted the responsibility of being a voice for women across the county and a driving force for uplifting change. Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Wynne have placed the removal of the gender gap and equality at the center of their governments’ mandate. This is leadership to be proud of. If the rest of the world can follow Canada’s leadership, the future is bright when it comes to global gender parity, and I am thrilled to watch Canada lead the way on such an important issue.
-Najva Amin is the President of the Ontario Young Liberals and is currently enrolled in her Master of Public Policy, Administration and Law at York University.