Posted on May 9, 2017 by Tia Lalani

One student’s passion for the equal representation of women in Canadian politics reinforced by Daughters of the Vote conference.

Photo courtesy of Tamam Ahmed Jama.

Jennifer Ha is no stranger to making the most of opportunity. Alongside various extracurriculars, including working on the board of the Camrose Public Library, writing for Augustana’s student newspaper, and working as an international student program coordinator, Jennifer also had the chance to travel to Ottawa and attend Equal Voice’s Daughters of the Vote conference in early March.

“I kind of had no idea what I was applying for at first,” Jennifer laughed, on her decision to attend the conference at the advisement of political studies professor Sandra Rein. “I think that’s a symptom of being an Augustana student—if you see an opportunity you go for it because everyone is so encouraging.”

After submitting six mini-essays and getting accepted, Jennifer was headed to Ottawa for the Daughters of the Vote conference, a first-time endeavour not only for Jennifer but for the organization, Equal Voice. The conference invited 338 young women from across Canada to come together and familiarize themselves with Canada’s political institutions, in an effort to ensure women’s continued participation in Canadian politics. One of the highlights of the event brought these young women into politics quite literally, as they filled every seat in the House of Commons in honour of International Women’s Day. Jennifer was one of those women, as a representative of the Battle River – Crowfoot Riding.

“It was amazing and really fun to be with 337 other girls from all over Canada, as each of us represented a federal riding,” said Jennifer. “I ended up making very meaningful friendships, so on top of getting the chance to hear from a number of prominent political figures, it was also a really good networking opportunity.”

Speakers included Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment, and Maryam Monsef, Minister of the Status of Women, as well as all of the major party leaders in the House of Commons, including the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

A number of the young women also had the opportunity to make one-minute speeches on an issue that they were passionate about, ranging from Islamophobia in Canadian society to menstrual leave, sexual assault, and affordable housing. Jennifer was especially appreciative of what a supportive environment the conference offered.

“A lot of times women are posed to be in inherent competition, especially in politics,” Jennifer noted. “I think that we as a society have a hard time envisioning more than one woman running, and we tend to sort of pigeonhole them. That’s why it’s so important to support everyone and support equal voices among multi-partisan organizations. This experience helped solidify that—it was great to be in an environment where we were all experiencing it for the first time, everyone was very supportive.”

Jennifer also had the chance to perform a piece of spoken word poetry centered on her experiences as an immigrant in rural Alberta during the conference. Her passion for immigration reaches beyond creative endeavours and into Jennifer’s past research as well as future plans, which for now, include graduate school to delve into immigration and settlement studies.

“Since I’ve always independently guided my studies, they often incorporated sociology and other arenas of politics, like identity politics,” Jennifer explained. “For a long time, I haven’t felt like I was involved in capital “P” capital “S” Political Science. But going to this conference, and being around Canadian politicians reignited my interest in more formal politics. It was a great experience.”

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