Equality Matters

Voter apathy threatens women’s rights

In a few weeks I will join millions of Canadians in exercising my right to vote in the federal election on October 21st. There are many reasons to seize this opportunity – starting with our responsibility to those without it.

In many parts of the world, including in places where Crossroads works, voting is a right, but often women’s exercise of that right is discouraged, with women harassed and even assaulted. Poverty and illiteracy further limit women’s participation.

Women’s representation also continues to lag: in Burkina Faso, only 11% of national legislators are women, 13% in Ghana and the number drops to 7% in eSwatini.1

 

Elections can be vital moments to introduce new ideas, debate policy options, and bring new voices and perspectives to office.  Elections help us shape the society in which we wish to live. Or at least, that is what is supposed to happen. We know from recent experience that corruption in elections is a real and tangible threat. Calculated misinformation, vituperative rhetoric, and foreign interference are conspiring to increase voter apathy and diminish the bonds of civility and community on which liberal democracies are founded.

More reason to engage now.

I urge you to act too. Vote.  A lot is at stake in this election, from addressing climate change, growing inequality and an assault on women’s rights.  From Tanzania to America, we are witnessing the roll-back of women’s rights. No matter what party Canadians choose to lead, Canada must continue to champion women’s rights at home and abroad.

 

Recently, with grants from the Karen Takacs Women’s Leadership Fund, Crossroads has invested in women who want to engage in the political process – young women, like those in Ghana who served as election observers in 2016 with Crossroads partner ABANTU documenting examples of gender discrimination during the election process. And this year in Burkina Faso where, with our partner RESACIFROAT, we are increasing women’s participation in rural local governance. Already women and youth are engaged with more than 30 participating in the electoral training and a waiting list being established.  Their goal?  Increase women’s participation by 25% in 2020 and elect 5 women candidates.

For more than a decade, Crossroads has been investing in women’s leadership abroad and encouraging Canadian policy makers to increase official development assistance.  Canadians care.  In poll released last week2, 81% of Canadians strongly or somewhat agree that Canada should do its fair share to help developing countries and 51% said foreign aid has more impact when focused on advancing women and girls.

We can lead by example. We can exercise our right to vote and support Canadian investment needed to ensure women around the world can do the same.

To learn more Get the Facts on Canadian Official Development Assistance.  Learn more about candidates in your riding at www.elections.ca.

1 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SG.GEN.PARL.ZS
2 Public Opinion Research conducted for Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Heath (CanWaCH) by Nanos Research

About Christine Campbell
Christine is the National Director External Relations at Crossroads International. She has more than 20 years’ experience engaging stakeholders to advance public policy, increase profile and financial support.

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