On International Women’s Day, A Focus on Canada’s Gender Deficit

by: Obert Madondo | March 8, 2012

As the world celebrates women’s achievements during the 2012 International Women’s Day, Naomi Klein stands out among the many gifts Canada has given to the world.

Klein’s work and passion around globalization, capitalism, human rights and, recently, the Keystone XL pipeline, has given the world a better understanding of the inequalities, prejudices and issues we should all reflect on today, the International Women’s Day.

And work on all year round.

The Vancouver Observer on Klein and her eye-opening work:

In her first book, No Logo, she took readers inside sweatshops, creating a powerful image of human rights abuses and the frightening realities of commercialism and globalization. In Shock Doctrine, another international bestseller, she explored the economics of disaster with compelling, on-the-ground accounts of exploitation in the face of catastrophe.

Klein tops my list of Canada’s top 100 women.

And yet Canada still has a staggering women-problem. A gender deficit kind of problem. In politics. If I’m wrong, how come we’ve had only female prime minister, Kim Campbell, since Confederation (1867)?

On the world scale of women’s participation in politics, Canada ranked 39th as of November 2011. We trail democratizing and developing countries, including Bolivia, Rwanda, South Africa and Pakistan. In fact Rwanda shames us with 57 per cent.

We’re yet to elect a female Prime Minister in a general election. Campbell became PM via winning the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives in June 1993. And then, she lost the November general election, barely six months after coming to power.

Kathryn Cholette was the first woman ever to lead federal political party, the Green Party. In 1989, the New Democratic Party’s Audrey McLaughlin was the first woman to lead a party represented in the House of Commons. Elizabeth May currently leads the Greens. Nycole Turmel is currently the leader of the Official Opposition.

So near, and yet so far.

That a record 76 women (24.6%) were elected to the House of Commons during the 2011 federal election is no consolation. Women are over 50% of Canada’s population. Countries less democratic, less free, are competing to embrace female leadership at the highest level. Liberia. Argentina. Trinidad and Tobago. Costa Rica. Brazil.Etc.

What exactly is our problem? Canadian women themselves are to blame? Their “fear” of stepping onto the limelight, that is?

It’s sexism, stupid. Our anti-democratic electoral system too. And our “broken democracy”. Without a genuine partnership between men and women, real democracy is impossible. Equal Voice is a national, bilingual, non-profit, multi-partisan organization dedicated to electing more women to all levels of political office in Canada agrees:

How can a democracy be deemed legitimate if it fails to represent half its population?

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of  The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad