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YWCA of Halifax Study: Women Still Under-represented in Politics
(Wednesday, March 10, 2004) - The YWCA of Halifax released a research report today that confirms women experience barriers to participating in municipal government. The research was undertaken by the YWCA of Halifax on behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities as part of a national project to more fully understand the barriers to and opportunities for increasing women's participation in municipal consultation processes.
While there have been strides towards women's equality in society, particularly with increased representation within post-secondary institutions, women remain underrepresented in politics. Women hold about 20% of the seats in Canada's legislatures, 11.5% of the current Nova Scotia legislature, and 26% of Halifax Regional Council. By this measure, women are less than halfway to political equality.
"Given that the level of participation of women in politics has stagnated, we can't assume that more women will naturally become elected over time," said Tanis Crosby YWCA of Halifax Executive Director Programs and Development. "It is incumbent upon us to actively work towards increasing a diversity of women's participation in politics to ensure this democracy gap can be closed."
The research project included seven focus groups with diverse groups of women including African Nova Scotian women, women living on low-incomes, immigrant women, professional women, university students, and youth.
While there is a wide variety of women's participation in municipal processes to having run for office, the research confirmed that women feel that they are not sufficiently informed about municipal government and need more information. "Women told us that they feel powerless and do not believe their voices are heard," said project researcher Barbara Cottrell. "Barriers identified include lack of time, child care, inadequate public transportation, lack of faith in politicians and the process, and a lack of confidence in the face of the formality of City Hall."
The Halifax Regional Municipality has taken notice of the YWCA of Halifax's research, as Regional Council recently passed a unanimous motion requesting a staff report with some suggestion as to how Council may address, throughout the coming year, some of the concerns expressed in the preliminary findings of the YWCA of Halifax's research study of women and politics.
'The YWCA of Halifax applauds the Council's desire to address our research findings, and we look forward to working together on solutions to increase women's participation in municipal government," said Brenda Sanderson YWCA of Halifax President.
A summary of the research report will be presented at a community meeting tonight at City Hall, followed by a workshop to identify solutions and ideas for community action. For further information on how to get involved, contact the YWCA at 423-6162.
The YWCA of Halifax is a charitable organization established in 1874 that is dedicated to providing services by and for women. The YWCA of Halifax provides programs for women at a critical turning point in their lives including leadership development for young women, child care, and shelter and support services for women.
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Executive Director Programs and Development
YWCA of Halifax
Corporate Communications Officer
(902) 490-4044 (fax)