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Women have ‘long way to go’ in our cities’ public life, politics

Metro News with Ellen Woodworth 16 January 2018

An initiative to engage and empower Surrey and Vancouver women’s public voices got a $282,000 cash boost Tuesday.

The federal status of women minister granted the funding to “identify and address the barriers that prevent women from participating in political and public life,” the minister’s parliamentary secretary, MP Terry Duguid, said at a press conference.

Led by Women Transforming Cities International, the project will work with Vancouver’s women’s advisory committee and create a similar one in Surrey, and issue “annual report cards” on progress.

Their big question: how to get more women and girls engaged, whether running for office or speaking out on civic decisions.

It’s only recently that gender-balanced Cabinets and city councils have emerged at civic, provincial and federal levels, including near-parity in Vancouver and Surrey. But Women Transforming Cities chair Ellen Woodsworth said there’s poor representation of women from marginalized backgrounds.

“At the city level, we do not represent the women who live in our cities,” Woodsworth, and former Vancouver Coun, said. “Women and girls work for cities, but cities still do not work for women and girls.”

Tracey Porteous, whose organization Ending Violence Association of B.C. hosted the event, said there’s never “been a more important time to involve the voices of women” in public life.

“I am immensely proud to be here today,” she added. “There’s never been this much awareness or public dialogue about sexual assault, sexual harassment and other forms of violence that continue to be a threat against women and their children.”

She said our “governance structures” must now “ensure that women’s voices are heard” and involved.

But although Woodsworth was “quite excited” and “pleased” to learn of the funding boost, she didn’t hesitate to use her platform Tuesday — standing next to Ottawa’s representative — to push for more.

“I have to admit I was shocked that it was such a small amount,” she said. “The Prime Minister has put $26 billion into defence but … there are so many areas where women are falling behind in critical ways.

“There needs to be a lot more money put in … We have a long way to go.”

City council will hear speakers on the issue, including Woodsworth, and a related report Wednesday afternoon.