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New generation of women find their voices in politics

Gerry Chidiac

BY GERRY CHIDIAC

Lessons in Learning

Angela Merkel has announced that this will be her last term as German chancellor. This has created some concern, as many credit her with navigating her country, the European Union and even the global community through many stormy waters in recent years.

When we look around the world, however, we see that there is no reason to fear. Numerous politicians of tremendous integrity are stepping forward. What’s striking is how many of these leaders are women.

Though Elizabeth May remains the only Green Party member of Parliament, non-partisan Canadians tend to trust her word above all others with regard to happenings in government.

In 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau purposely chose a significant number of women to form his cabinet. Is it a coincidence that among them are the very people who have put their own careers on the line by questioning the ethics of his administration?

The recent mid-term congressional elections in the United States also unleashed the power of women of integrity in politics. The number of women now serving in both houses of Congress is 127, the highest in history.

Of the 116 women recently elected, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been the most visible. However, she is not the only person challenging the status quo. Other new members in the U.S. include the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, Indigenous women and representatives of other significant minority groups.

The vast majority of American citizens have watched their democratic rights diminish over the last several decades as the result of the influence of corporatist lobbyists, who pay for ‘their guy’ to get elected, as well as by their own increasing political apathy.

These new congressional representatives, however, are stepping forward and saying, “Enough is enough! This is a democracy, of the people, by the people and for the people, and our government is failing us. We need to make changes.”

They’re empowering the common person to take part in the political process.

What’s also incredibly hopeful is the similarity in background of many of the new representatives. A significant number are relatively young women from immigrant backgrounds. They seem to have come from nowhere in the last few years to take their places in one of the most powerful and influential law-making bodies in the world.

The fact is they didn’t come out of nowhere and that’s what’s most encouraging. They have a history of grassroots social activism and community involvement.

Ocasio-Cortez sparked tremendous hope and interest due to the uniqueness of her story. As a young bartender of limited means, she was able to not only win the Democratic nomination for her constituency in New York City, she defeated Joe Crowley, one of the most powerful Democrats in the House of Representatives. Her approach required limited financial investment and relied on a message of empowerment to previously disempowered citizens.

Of course, it’s not only women who are capable of leading with integrity, and it’s not only the young who have the courage to stand up to corruption. Every citizen, elected or not, has the responsibility of holding their government accountable.

It is, however, encouraging and inspiring to see women take on these roles in our legislatures.

The Year of the Woman in 2018 was one of significant change. Those who put themselves on the line to be champions of integrity deserve our support, and they call on all of us to be active citizens and do the right thing.

Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students. Check out his website here. Find him on Facebook. Or on Twitter @GerryChidiac