Elka's Speech

                     DAY FOR DEMOCRACY     by   ELKA RUTH ENOLA

In a fully   functioning   democracy everyone can influence government policy decisions, if not directly, then certainly indirectly.

Canada is a mature democracy, but today, it is far from being a fully functioning democracy since, for example, most acts of the current government that affect women are biased against them.  Sometimes this is hard to see. 

A law or policy is put in place.  It is not directed specifically at women... it just happens that it mostly affects women.  I call that disguised gender bias.Over 50 % of Canadians are female, yet they hold nowhere near 50% of the economic or political power.  

In fact, 60% of minimum wage earners are women.  And the minimum wage for experienced   adult    workers in most provinces is less than $10 an hour. 

40% of working women are employed in precarious jobs with no benefits, no pension and little or no job security.  Often these are part time jobs. Part time jobs are a problem because company owners do not have to pay part time workers fringe benefits; so full time jobs are frequently divided into part time jobs.

Many women are forced into holding multiple part time jobs in different locations.  Not only do they lose time travelling by public transportation between jobs, but they also incur increased costs. 

At the end of the day they have very little time, money or energy for their families.

What should a fully functioning democratic government do when faced with this scenario?

Women require on going education in order to pull themselves out of minimum wage poverty so the government would make sure that every woman who wanted to advance her status through education would be able to do so. 

It would enact legislation for high quality, universal, affordable   day care.

It would ensure a liveable minimum wage, not the current legal pittance.

It would enact and enforce legislation so that, any company that offers fringe benefits to any worker, would pro-rate those fringe benefits for all workers. 

That would discourage companies from dividing full time jobs into multiple part time jobs.  That would enable women to hold one job instead of 2or 3.

But how would women know what rights were available to them?  How could they deal with large companies that deny their rights?
The answer is advocacy,  the cornerstone of a fully functioning democracy.

Such a democracy would ensure that every woman had access to well funded appropriate advocacy.  

It would  not   cut   funds   to   well   functioning  advocacy   groups.  

How do we know what actions are needed?  DATA. 

Not only would a fully functioning democracy collect data such as in the long- form census, but all that data would be made freely and easily available to all women’s advocacy groups.  In fact, such a democracy would go further and would consult with women’s advocacy groups when formulating instruments  for data collecting.  

So what should our government be doing?  

At the very least, it should

1 Provide  high quality, universal, affordable day care.  

2 Provide  accessible affordable education to working women

3 Increase the minimum wage

4 Pro rate fringe benefits for full and part time workers

5 Support advocacy to ensure that those who lack information, time and money are fully represented

6 Collect and freely share data needed by advocacy groups 

Canada should be a fully functioning mature democracy.

And it will be!

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