Wondering what Up for Debate is and why they are pushing our leaders to address women’s issues? Here are some answers:
1. What is the Up for Debate campaign?
Up for Debate is a campaign calling on all federal political parties to make meaningful commitments to change women’s lives for the better, at home and around the world. Up for Debate is working to create a national conversation on gender equality and women’s rights in the lead up to the next federal election. We are an alliance of over 175 organizations from across the country, representing over 3.5 million Canadians. We believe women’s rights are an election issue.
As you may have heard, the debate will no longer take place because Harper and therefore Mulcair refuse to participate. This is what Plan B looks like:
Ann Decter, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the YWCA an Up For Debate campaign spokesperson, said: “We remain determined to put women’s issues at the centre of this election.” “It may not be the debate we first imagined – but an alternative can get all party leaders speaking on the record to issues that matter to women. And it will still be the first time that happens in 30 years.”
Up for Debate has agreement from the New Democratic Party, the Greens, the Liberals and the Bloc to have leaders participate in one on one interviews, with questions focused exclusively on women.
The exclusive interviews will be released on September 21st at a live event at Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre, along with comment and analysis. Up for Debate continues to urge leaders to put women’s issues on the map throughout the entire election.
2. Why not simply ask questions about women’s issues in the general debates?
We are working to ensure women’s issues are integrated into the other debates, but, this does not replace the need for a standalone debate on women’s issues. One or two questions are insufficient to cover the range of issues, concerns, priorities and needs that women have. The realities of women’s lives are diverse and the challenges they face are complex – ranging for accessible childcare and housing, pay equity, poverty, violence, under-representation in government, lack of access to services. A debate entirely devoted to addressing these issues is much needed and far overdue. Women work in different industries, play distinct roles in the community and the workplace, face unique barriers to political and professional representation. Yet Canadian voters have few opportunities to hear how the platforms and policies of the federal political parties will address those differences. In spite of women’s crucial contributions to the economic, social and democratic life of Canada, their concerns have historically received scant attention during the leaders’ debates. For example in the English-language debate in 2011, the word “women” was rarely pronounced and only one policy issues specifically affecting women (violence against women) was mentioned – once.
3. Why focus on women?
The status of women has advanced over the past thirty years, but women still face barriers to their wellbeing just because they are women. In Canada, women continue to earn 20% less than their male peers for the same full-time work, are more likely to be poor, and do twice as much unpaid work at home. Since 1980 over a thousand Aboriginal women and girls have been murdered, and each day more than 8,000 women and children seek protection from a shelter. Around the world, women face economic exclusion and marginalization. Violence against women is endemic and sexual violence continues to be used as a weapon in armed conflict. 14 million girls are married against their will every year before they turn 18. Women still only account for nine per cent of the police, 20 per cent of parliamentarians and 27 per cent of all judges worldwide. The struggle to realize equal rights for women and girls is far from over.
4. Why now?
The last federal leaders’ debate on issues identified by women was held 30 years ago. Many of the issues that were raised during that first debate have not yet been resolved. Another debate is long overdue. In recent years, organizations that work to advance women’s rights, both in Canada and internationally, have experienced increased challenges. Their funding has been cut, their ability to conduct research and advocacy has been damaged, their human rights-based approaches have been challenged, and the space for public policy debate on gender equality has been shrinking. The upcoming federal election is an opportunity to build a national conversation on gender equality, and encourage the political parties to explain how they plan to build a Canada that works for women.
5. Who is behind the Up for Debate campaign?
The campaign is led by an alliance of over 175 organizations – women’s groups and their allies across Canada. The alliance is comprised of very broad range of organizations: women’s groups in every region of the country, Aboriginal associations, unions, community groups, international development organizations, business associations and faith-based groups. This alliance of organizations represents over 4.5 million people, from coast to coast to coast, who expect to see women’s priorities, needs and realities taken seriously during the next federal election. Our organizations have national reach and represent a very broad community of Canadians. Together, we are advocating for stronger Canadian international and national policies that support the advancement of women’s rights, dignity and security. This broad alliance builds on the long experience of its member organizations in working to advance women’s rights and gender justice, in communities across Canada and around the world. We are a non-partisan alliance. Up for Debate is a strictly non-partisan campaign, and does not support or endorse any party or party platform.
6. How can people support the campaign?
Individuals can get more information and support the campaign at www.upfordebate.ca. We need Canadians to speak out and speak up about why they believe that federal parties should urgently address women’s priorities, realities and needs, beginning with a federal leaders’ debate on these issues. The bilingual campaign website contains information and tools for people to share information about the campaign in their communities and on social media. At key times throughout the next year Up for Debate will be hosting events and activities across Canada to bring attention to issues of violence against women, women’s economic inequality and women’s leadership. Individuals can also volunteer directly for many of the organizations who form the Alliance.