EDMONTON - The city could have its first women’s advisory committee under a proposal Monday that was enthusiastically endorsed by councillors.
The 15-member group would educate women about civic issues and provide input to city council to better deal with transit, safety, poverty and other problems, said Jacqueline Foord, chief executive of YWCA Edmonton.
“We know no city committee is going to single-handedly solve all these issues … but we can make city council better and the city stronger,” Foord told council’s community services committee.
“By creating WAVE (Women’s Advocacy Voice of Edmonton), council will show it’s serious about bringing women into civic leadership.”
The role of the committee, which must still be formally established through a city bylaw, will be to provide recommendations and information on gender-based issues as well as developing female leadership in Edmonton.
The proposal came out of three symposiums in the last two years attended by more than 700 people, which included discussions of how to set up such a committee.
It will be similar to existing council groups such as Next Gen, which represents people under age 40, and the Advisory Board on Services for Persons with Disabilities.
Several major Canadian women’s organizations, including the Alberta Status of Women Action Committee and the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, faded from view or disappeared over the years.
But this was often the result of funding cuts or an unfavourable political climate, said Janet Buckmaster, who’s helping set up the Edmonton group.
There are successful advisory committees in such cities as Ottawa, Vancouver and Quebec City, she said.
“Policy is being set without women’s input. If we don’t remove the barriers that make it intimidating, then we won’t hear from women.”
Edmonton’s only female councillor, Bev Esslinger, said she’s excited the committee appears to be moving ahead.
“I have been asked many times since I have been elected ‘How do you represent all the women in Edmonton?’ As I see this bylaw, I’m certainly satisfied there will be a WAVE behind me.”
Edmonton Journal, February 4, 2014