By Kathleen-Rose Kennedy
International Women's Initiative News Writer
On 8 March 2017, 338 young Canadian women between the ages of 18 to 23 filled every seat in the parliament for an event called “Daughters of the Vote”. This was the first time in Canadian history when so many women have been seated in the House of Commons, representing every federal riding the country. The reason for this historical event: to celebrate International Women’s Day and to highlight women’s right to vote in Canada.
The event was organized and hosted by Equal Voice, an organization committed to ensuring that women have an equal part to play in political decisions in Canada. Founded in 2001, Equal Voice brings women and men together from across the political spectrum to advance the political role and election of women. This is done by promoting the number of women in politics through electoral changes, preparing women to run for office, raising awareness of the shortage of female politicians and encouraging political parties to increase their nominations of female candidates.
Out of 1,500 applicants, only 338 women were chosen. Christina Kalavritinos was one of the lucky few, selected to represent the Honoré-Mercier constituency to express her visions for Canada. In her last semester studying social work at McGill University in Montreal, Kalavritinos was keen to learn more and to become familiar with Canada’s political sphere and institutions. Therefore, the “Daughters of the Vote” initiative represented the perfect opportunity. A particular advantage of this event was that anyone from any background was invited to apply – there was no requirement for applicants to have studied political science or international relations in order to be eligible.
Christina Kalavritinos first heard about the leadership initiative through her university professor who informed the whole class about the opportunity: “I had taken a women’s health course and once the class was over, our professor sent us the information to apply to become a “Daughter of the Vote”. I applied last June, but didn’t think much of it at the time. Fast-forward to December, I received a phone call from Equal Vote informing me that I was chosen to represent my constituency,” said Kalavritinos.
The event consisted of a full week of events, gatherings and outings. The Daughters of the Vote had the opportunity to meet with their respective MP and other Daughters, in addition to literally taking a seat in the Parliament and thereby making history. “I learnt that when you work together in numbers, you are far more powerful. Women are capable of advocating for themselves, but if we partner with men and women alike, we could do so much more.” These young women had the opportunity to learn about current issues that they may not have been aware of beforehand, such as the growing issue of Islamophobia in the country and the lack of drinking water in some Native reserves across Canada.
“Not only was it an incredible and life-changing experience, but it was also an unbelievable event for networking and getting to know other young women who are ready to make a change and who want to have their voices heard,” said the 23-year old.
When asked about how she thinks the event can affect Canada and the rest of the world, Kalavritinos said: “With everything going on in the world, now is a time where everyone is looking to Canada. We have come a long way, but we still have to do a lot [in terms of women’s rights]. But women are ready to take their place. We are just as capable as men; we are no longer vulnerable. Women have found their voices and we are ready.”
Just by the sheer number of women who applied, it is clear that women are in fact interested in being active in politics; they just need the resources and opportunities to do so.