Women and Political Engagement
November 2, 2011
"Women will take more and more place in politics."
Hélène Boivin, Innue
It isn’t always easy when Indigenous women want to get involved in politics and move from the family circle to power. They must make their way through a world of men, sometimes facing intimidation or discrimination, and find the strength and courage within themselves to gain respect. They want to become equals, allies, to carry forward the struggles that will contribute to improving the status of women in their community and nation, for the common good. The challenge is daunting, but there’s hope! Young women are more educated and involved. In the future, they’ll be walking in the footsteps of pioneers like Hélène Boivin, on the path of individual and collective recognition.
Report of an interview with Hélène Boivin.
When you come to an Indigenous community, you see more women who went to university. There are fewer men...
There are few women in politics, and all that... But you have fewer dropouts among women. But you see, here, in the community, in Mashteuiatsh, we realized that, at one point. For example, at the administrative level […], the body of which is the Conseil des Montagnais of Lac-Saint-Jean, we realized that, well, that there, and this is still the case, you see there have been tentative attempts, but the senior management positions, I am not talking about the senior political positions, but the senior management positions, are held by women.
In the field, it’s women who hold senior administrative positions. But at the political level, men hold these positions...
For the past fifteen years, it has been a fact, it’s undeniable: it’s women who, for the most part, have held senior administrative positions.
Well, women, they’re fighting to change laws because laws, as you know, are discriminatory, including the issues that are ongoing, that is, the issues that are defended by Indigenous Women. There’s still the issue of violence, and the rights to matrimonial ties. Because a woman who’s on the reserve, according to the laws, has no right to property in the event of divorce. Women have changed this to ensure that women, in the event of divorce, can be entitled to half of the family's assets, because that was not the case in the past. So where do I see women... I think that women will continue to want things to change, to want laws to change to avoid always being in unfair situations of discrimination. But it's a shame that we have to... It's a shame that, we still have to fight for it. You know, here’s another example for you, currently, the “hunting territories”, in quotation marks, are not bequeathed to women. Most of the time, they’re bequeathed to men. Some, but not many, bequeath their territory to girls. Regardless, I also think that women will occupy a more important place in the political levels of the future, because that’s what they want. I’m speaking for here. You know, I believe that there are three girls who followed the Women and Governance course here, because following what we experienced in Ecuador, we established a partnership with ENAP [The University of Public Administration], and we set up a support program, to support and teach French-speaking Indigenous women who want to go into politics.
That means that there’s a desire to go into politics, and to get involved at the political level. There’s sincere desire...
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