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Shape up or ship out!

posted Feb 9, 2012, 9:58 PM by Esther Matharu   [ updated Feb 9, 2012, 10:01 PM ]

Women from coast to coast want to see a new vision for Canada that is both inclusive and synergistic. To those politicians who prefer the partisanship model over the partnership model, WAP says: Shape up or ship out! It is time to start the process of creating an environment that makes it possible for more women representation in politics, WAP invites Canadians to join in creating an ‘alliance’ that will reflect our unity and diversity. 

As a new – not-yet-registered - political party, WAP’s main focus is women and politics. But it is also a movement that has a vision about a new leadership model that will help us get over the current stalemate. Below are some of the reasons Council member Esther Matharu gives in a recent interview.

Why a new party?

We started the WAP in late 2010 because, very simply put, the big parties were not focusing on issues important to women, instead they were quarreling about who gets the most votes. Many women were saying: They don’t care about us!

And to a large extent, that is exactly true.  But it is not just women voices that are being ignored, but other parties that represent their voices too. Why are they being trashed as if they didn’t count?

WAP as a party calls for immediate election reforms, based on the recommendations of the Law Commission of 2004. It strongly calls for a closer look at this system and about debunking the myth that you have to have money to win. We, the 99%, have fallen for that lie. We need to take matters in our own hands.  Thankfully, LeadNow, Fair Vote and others, are seriously bringing this issue to the people. The First Past the Post has to be one of the most discriminatory and undemocratic systems we see in the developed world. It is based on a marketing model that sees society as essentially responding to the laws of advertisements and competition. It is created to be self-serving. It does not promote good governance. Women and many men do not feel comfortable in this vision of human beings competing aggressively for power and control, the hierarchical and militaristic paradigm. We are collectively trapped in the paradigm of domination and the divide to conquer methodology where control of our political space has been handed over to the highest bidder, a moneyed elite backed by transnational corporations.

I believe that this marketing model traps politicians into thinking that a country must be run as if it were a corporation, which relies heavily, if not exclusively on profits, with financial institutions acting as ‘managers’ of our national resources.

What about WAP as a movement?

WAP is also a movement towards deep structural changes in the way we think and do politics. WAP invites people, irrespective of what party they belong to, to move out of that old dysfunctional partisan mindset and demand that our representatives bring honest and transparent debates to Parliament. For this we need more of a movement than an actual political party. However, a political party for women is a great way to shake things up and say: let’s get together and challenge these parties by creating a parallel party that simply refuses to enter the old model. We can and will change things from the outside. But we need to change our selves first, the way we think and the way we speak. Only then will we, as a people, have the moral ground to demand changes in our institutions.

Finally, WAP is about inspiring women, especially young women, to get into politics as the way to respond effectively to the discrimination we, as women, continue to face.

Where is the evidence that women are being discriminated against?

First, economically. For example, recently, government cuts to the many services that were set up to assist women affect the lives of families, especially the poor, the sick, the homeless, the small business owners, the farmers, the health-care workers, the elderly, the new immigrants and unemployed. It this was truly an ‘austerity’ measure affecting all levels of society, it would be acceptable. But these cuts affect the most vulnerable. Juxtapose the huge military spending, prisons complexes and hidden banking, corporate taxation and oil scandals, and you start to see that the current system is meant to favour the 1% at the expense of the 99%. 

Second, politically. Here too women are being discriminated against. For example, why on earth does it matter whom a woman dates or what she wears? Besides, how many women can dedicate the thousands of hours campaigning in the toxic atmosphere of media controlled hate ads and slander attacks, only to find that her ideas are being slammed down because she will not ‘fight back’? So if she is a gentle woman and she does not feel comfortable in the blood arena of politics, she has no place in Parliament? Most women do not see themselves happily entering this arena of fighting cocks - no pun intended – and yet the presence and voices of our daughters, mothers and grandmothers are essential to bring balance and sobriety in the decision-making institutions of our nation.

Very practically, WAP wants 50% seats in Parliament be reserved for women. I can assure you that we will see a change for the better in wealth distribution and environmental protection in Canada when this happens. Looking at the evidence in those countries where women are highly represented in governing institutions, such as the Nordic countries, we see that citizens of these countries enjoy higher living standards than those in all other countries. So what are we Canadian women waiting for?

But in order for this to happen, we need to re-imagine what it would entail for women to take their place in politics. For example, imagine two or three women sharing the same seat, giving our country the benefit of their knowledge and experience while also being mums and wives with a family life that builds our communities instead of fragmenting them. Women want to show the example that this is possible.

Third, the toxic atmosphere in Parliament. There is something very disturbing when you observe or experience the lack of dignity, decorum and focus among many of our politicians. It shames and pains us.  The fact that political leaders get away with treating Canadians with contempt is a clear indication that we have lost our moral compass.   Imagine the kind of debates we will have when we focus on issues and not on shooting each other down? Finally, imagine how far our tax dollars will go to creating a society that cares for its 99% instead of pandering to the 1%? Imagine investing more on health, education and sustainable ‘green’ industries and less on planes, weapons and prisons? It’s a matter of re-envisioning what we want our society to look like in 10, 20, 50 years. The Canada we want our children to inherit. Women and men can and will do this and the Women’s Alliance Party exists to help get to that place.

Who is in this Alliance?

As said earlier, what we observe is that there are many good people, many good groups and great ideas for building community, staring here in Ottawa, yet each one seems to live in a bubble, as if they were alone. An alliance is an invitation to like-minded people to join forces, to come together to envision a just and fair future for all Canadians. This can realistically happen only if we the people move beyond the partisanship model that divides us arbitrarily. An alliance needs to be based on some fundamental principles or values instead of on party loyalty and personality cults. Non-violence, honesty, respect, these are some values that come to mind. Most importantly, we need to place the environment at the core of our political actions.

Why women? Does this not concern men too?

Yes, it does. But let’s face the facts: men have dominated women for thousands of years and look where we are now? We asked the question in 2010, why are there so few women engaged in politics? Women are stakeholders in community building. They give masses of their time volunteering, caring for the elderly, children and grandchildren, providing care for the homeless and the marginalized. They are the majority graduating from universities. We have in Canada admirable women academics and thinkers; we have gifted artists and performers, writers and film-makers. We have numerous women who are activists in the struggle for social justice. So why are they not present where it counts the most, in governing this country?  How come women, who constitute 52% of the population, are as few as 22.5% in politics?

There was a time when society of men, collectively agreed that they were better at governing than women. If they are really better, then why are we in such a mess today? One look at our growing military and prison industrial complexes and the failure of our government to protect our common natural resources, and we can ask ourselves: Can those 22.5% women make a difference? Do women start wars? Do they go to war?   

Having said that, WAP absolutely welcomes men to join in building the party. We are very aware that there are many gentle and kind men who feel trapped in the old hierarchical paradigm.  They have been pushed  into feeling that in order to be ‘a man’ they have to be competitive and fight other men, and women, to get to the top, when all they want to do is get out of the rat race and be friends with others, enjoy their work and participate in family life. Our young men, especially, don’t feel they fit in this aggressive image of a macho man. They are not attracted to dominance and would much prefer partnerships with women and other men.

How can that happen?

Well, we need to recognize a number of things.

First, we need to recognize that the problem we are facing is systemic and structural. When we blame the 1% for where we are at today, we are right but we also need to see that we are part of the problem too, because we are part of that system, that paradigm.

For example, we vote in one party and out another but nothing really changes because it is the same mindset behind all parties. Or we blame capitalism or religions or what ever we feel is infringing on our liberties and our entitlements, but what guarantee do we have that a change in leadership will bring in the changes we want, knowing what we know today, that anyone can come in and reverse all the decisions previous governments made? Look at the number of military interventions our so-called peace keeping Canada is in today? Look at how Medicare is being threatened?  How scientists are being silenced and academics being muzzled!  It is much easier to change a government than to change the structure or paradigm we live in. There is a lot of resistance to change, and that change starts with and in us.

Second, we need to recognize that women are at the fore in many organizations that seek to inform, support and build awareness within the community. They are the bridgers, the doers, the fixers. They are the activist I meet, the raging grannies, those who join the picket lines at 5:30am in support of workers, who stand up in Parliament with a Stop Harper sign, the occupiers who sleep in tents in the cold and brave ridicule and contempt from many citizens as they strive to awaken us from our deep complacency and join in shouting: something is wrong here! They are the unsung women who help new immigrants settle, who organize fundraisers for those who have no other resources. They are the students who live in fear of coming out of school with huge debts and no jobs. They are the journalists and authors, union workers and academics who raise their voices and push against the silence that meets them because they speak out against injustice. They are the women who expected more from the feminist movements that they participated in 30 years ago. These are the women who need to step into the political arena, say “enough is enough” and simply take over.

What are the greatest challenges for WAP?

The greatest challenge is coming to terms with the fact that people don’t really want change or are not prepared to pay the price of moving out of their comfort zones. Also, our leaders all exhibit the “Cesar syndrome”, which says that it is better be first in Gaul than second in Rome! Most leaders prefer to be leaders of their own small organizations or parties, instead of coming together and loosing part of their sacrosanct identity or power! Online Party Canada, for example, is futuristic in nature as it is based on electronic voting of issues and not parties or people. Few people grasp the vision or want to join them. Why not?

My greatest personal challenge is changing my own vocabulary to reflect the new paradigm. For example, I get angry at injustice and those committing crimes against the earth and its people. That is why I am a raging granny, and an activist. I like to rant. It helps me vent my frustration. But in the new paradigm, we move into the positive and see how people are trapped in the old paradigm and try to draw them into seeing how negativity feeds the negative in us and in the world. My book Man on Trial: the ABC of his Folly is a rant and I am not ashamed to say that it helped me to voice some of my frustrations at how men have had their chance and bungled big time.

What are the priorities of WAP?

Our short-term goal is to strengthen the Council of 13 and to invite women to start WAP councils in urban and rural areas throughout Canada. Our long-term goal is to participate in the political education of our young people.  Voting as a civic duty is crucial if we want to ensure that citizens have control over our future. Many of our young people are disenchanted and even disenfranchised, because they see their concerns for quality and affordable education leading to meaningful occupation as being sidelined for  maximum profits and a purely market-viewpoint of a world in which they have no security. They will not vote unless they see results.

What is the future of WAP?

Well, we want to get registered as a federal party with elections Canada as soon as we can. We have as a governing body a Council of women that provides direction and motivation, following the transformative leadership model to the party.

We invite women and men to consider joining, to help build a party that is not going to compete with the other parties by trying to discredit or ridicule them, but to focus on issues and on our vision for Canada. We want to build a popular movement to create awareness and promote new ideas initiated by women for sharing and building our common future.

What if someone has questions about WAP?

We are planning to review our website to make it more interactive and up-to-date. For any questions, send an e-mail to: womensallianceparty@gmail.com

 

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