Your Vote Matters

I come from a place in the world where votes don’t count. During one of the so called “referendums”, the autocratic incumbent ran unopposed and allegedly received the vote of every individual eligible to vote in the country. This mockery of a democratic election left my friends, family and neighbours with a deep sense of helplessness; a sense that they could not control their destiny or the destiny of their country.

When I moved to Canada, I immediately became fascinated with politics. I read the newspaper daily, studied politics in university, and tried to understand the ins-and-outs of Canada’s political system. The first time I voted, I remember leaving the polls with a great sense of pride because my voice was heard.

151182_memes_vote3With Canada’s 42nd general federal election now underway, you may think to yourself: “why bother voting, it will not make a difference.” But there is a larger issue at play here – especially for young women. At stake is the ability to change the lives of women for the better.

Women’s issues seem to remain on the periphery of federal politics. Too often, they are dismissed as “special interest” in nature despite the fact that women comprise more than half of Canada’s population. In the meantime, violence against women remains pervasive, women still do not receive equal pay for work of equal value, mothers continue to struggle to find affordable child care, and disproportionate numbers of women are poor.

Women can push these issues to the forefront by engaging in the political process. Engagement is possible in various ways. One very important and often underestimated tool is your vote.

Politicians need your vote to get elected. They pay very close attention to who votes and to the issues that matter to voters. In other words, when young women vote in large numbers it forces politicians to stop and listen. Conversely, when young women disengage from politics, they become easy to ignore. Don’t let this happen to you.

Election Day is October 19th: take a friend and exercise your right to vote. It was hard earned.

#womenvoteforaction

Mariam Al-Shikarchy immigrated to Canada in 1995 and is a member of YWCA Toronto’s Advocacy Advisory Committee.