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women and girls posing with political leaders
Photo Courtesy MPP Cheri Dinovo
Feature

Girls' Government: Empowering Young Women to be Change Makers

Tanya Ferro
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They also recommended more outreach programs in Ontario to educate men and boys about sexual harassment, assault and violence, particularly around consent. They called for the creation of more outreach centres across Ontario. They argued that the education of boys and men around this issue was essential if they were to become part of the solution and end violence towards women. Finally, they shared their findings regarding the mental health of children who witness sexual harassment, assault and violence in the home. Their heart-felt recommendations included asking the government to grant more access to counselling for children. MPP MacCharles commended them for doing a fantastic job and spoke about the need for girls in politics. She invited the girls to ask questions and they asked her about her experiences in government. One of the girls asked her whether she thought a greater number of women would be in office by the time they were adults. She said she hoped the girls themselves would become involved in government at some level as adults.

We later presented to NDP Critic for Women’s Issues Peggy Sattler and PC Critic for Women’s Issues Laurie Scott. Both presentations went extremely well and the MPPs took time to speak with the girls and share their personal backgrounds and experiences. The girls hung off their every word.

We concluded the day by watching the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly as they were broadcast. The girls were intrigued as they listened to the premier and ministers discuss various issues. They gained an understanding of and became familiar with the proceedings in the legislature, something they had learned about in class, but had never seen. The girls then had the opportunity to go into the Press Room to present their proposal in a mock press conference. The entire day was an incredible learning experience.

This program was an opportunity of a lifetime for the girls. They learned the roles that exist in government, the opportunities for women and the empowerment that comes from doing research and writing and having their voices heard. They learned they are agents of change and they have powerful voices.

More women are needed in politics for equality to exist and for a diversity of issues and perspectives to be represented in public policy. The UN calls upon member states to take action to assure that women get equal representation at all levels of government. Opportunities like Girls’ Government help inspire young women to participate in government, opening the doors for them to discuss important social issues and connecting them with powerful women.

What better lesson is there for our future leaders?

Tanya Ferro is a member of Halton Teacher Local.

Girls’ Government (GG) is organized by the EVE Society for the Advancement of Women’s Voices in Public Policy. You can register as a GG interested teacher, read more about programs and download classroom resources at evesociety.com. EVE is currently working on a new co-ed program to involve boys and girls grades 4-6

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