In January, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed me as Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for the Status of Women. It’s truly an exciting time to be involved in advancing gender equality in Canada, an area of key importance to the federal government, and to all Canadians. Already, I’ve had the privilege to travel to New York City with Minister Monsef and the Canadian delegation to attend the United Nation’s 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61). Here, I was able to meet key women’s advocates from Canada and around the world who shared their valuable knowledge and insights with me.
I was not the only Winnipegger in attendance at this, the largest yearly gathering held at the U.N. In addition to a number of organizations from Manitoba, two exceptional students from St. Mary’s Academy took part in CSW61. Bethany Kolisniak, grade 10, and Soomin Han, grade 11, travelled to N.Y.C. along with two of their teachers. They were thrilled to attend sessions hosted by governments and organizations from around the globe, covering important issues facing women today such as gender-based violence, the under-representation of women in politics, women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work and the challenges faced specifically by Indigenous women. Bethany credits the experience of attending CSW61 with giving her a better understanding of what it means to be a global citizen, and a heightened sense of responsibility to help women around the world. “I am acutely aware of the privilege my peers and I have that other women do not, and so I believe that we have a responsibility to use that privilege to help others who are not as fortunate as we are,” Bethany explained.
Another recent highlight for my colleagues and me in Ottawa was hosting 338 young women, one from each federal riding across Canada, to take part in Equal Voice’s Daughters of the Vote initiative. On March 8th, International Women’s Day, each one took an MP’s seat in the House of Commons – Chimwemwe Undi, the representative from Winnipeg South, sat in my seat. A week of panels, workshops and networking opportunities provided many memorable moments for Chimwemwe. Along with the leaders of each federal political party, former Prime Minister Kim Campbell addressed the group in the House of Commons, sharing her hope that among them was the next female Prime Minister.
“Meeting the delegates, an incredible group of women with diverse backgrounds and promising futures, was a definite high point. The Indigenous delegates generously shared insights grounded in their lived experiences throughout the week, led us in a round dance, and reminded us that decolonization, equitable funding and climate activism are cornerstones of reconciliation,” said Chimwemwe.
Taking part in this special week confirmed for Chimwemwe the importance of ongoing political engagement. It was a true pleasure having her and the rest of the Canada’s Daughters of the Vote with us in Ottawa.