My volunteer experience with Dancing with the Octopus

My name is Kanica and I am a fourth year student of Criminology. I have no background in politics or women studies. However, as I read the description for the class, I thought, “I’m a woman…I MUST be able to relate in one way or another!” After the first class, I felt extremely empowered. My career goal is to be a lawyer and I can understand the struggles that females face within the legal profession. After taking a class on women and politics, I can also understand the struggles that some women may face as they enter politics. This class provided insight not only from a political point of view, but also the struggles a woman also faces.

I did not realize how much Kim Campbell was scrutinized for being Prime Minister for such a short amount of time. This class also taught me how, as a woman, I am not to be in competition with males, but to just provide a different perspective. Females within politics can fight for certain policies that may affect women. And male politicians may not be able to do this simply because they are not a female.

I was not aware of the fact that Canada did not have many active female politicians before this class. I think that this class not only wanted me to create awareness of getting more females into politics, but it also showed me what women can really do—what we are capable of. Personally, this class provided a sort of empowerment for me.

I was really surprised to learn that there are other countries in the world that have much more involvement of females within politics than Canada. One would think that Canada would have a higher percentage of females in politics than other, smaller countries. Before this class, I did not realize how important it was to raise that 22%!

When the “Dancing with the Octopus” opportunity presented itself, I wanted to really get involved and create awareness among students in high school. My peer, Navjot Minhas, and I got together to speak at Delview High School. We prepared a presentation for a Social Studies 11 class. We decided to speak to a Grade 11 class because they are not too young where they do not understand the implications of politics, but not yet old enough to be set in their career goals. These kids were at an impressionable age and could make a difference.

A presentation was prepared where the history of women in politics was talked about, as well as the suffragists. We then spoke about some recognizable and influential women within Canadian politics such as Nellie McClung, Kim Campbell and provided a list of names of important females within politics. Navjot then presented the class with certain stereotypes or challenges that women face when getting into politics and this allowed for the presentation to become interactive with the class. We had a lot of active participants and we stressed the fact that politics is not just a male-dominated career.

At the end, we played a fun jeopardy/quiz game where students answered questions about the presentation and won prizes. We pitted girls against boys for a little fun competition. At the end of it, Navjot and I presented the students with a volunteer opportunity to help raise awareness. We did not expect many students but were surprised with the fact that we had 12 volunteers who seemed genuinely interested.

After we ended the presentation, Navjot and I quickly got started on an assignment for these kids. We provided them with a list of female Canadian leaders and asked them to create a poster. This poster was to include:

We also asked them to briefly describe what they had learned about the issue of females in politics. We asked them to provide any suggestions or improvements that we could make to our political system so that we may be more accepting of females within such a male-dominated profession. Upon completing and presenting their projects, the students then placed their posters around the school.

Seeing these students so active about an assignment really excited me. Their teacher let me and Navjot know that these kids never really participate in anything and do not speak at all. And so when we got the positive reaction that we did, Navjot and I could not help to feel that all hope was not lost. Perhaps we can make a change to the small number of 22%, and the younger generation can make a difference!

By Kanica Khosla