Over the years, I have been involved with mission work through my church and followed the work of our various missionaries—usually in other parts of the world. I have also been privileged to represent the Women’s Missionary Society (WMS) at the National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC) Annual meeting for a number of years. Locally, I have also been a member of the Council of Women in Montreal, having joined as the representative from Girl Guides in Quebec. I remember my first few meetings with these bright, active women who seemed to know so much of what was going on in the city and what needed to be addressed, improved, or changed.
It was during my involvement on Montreal Council were I was introduced to the value of what could be achieved by lobbying those who make the laws governing the everyday lives of its citizens. It was simple things like better lighting in city parking lots, redistribution of garbage containers, easier access for the disabled on busy streets. I found the work stimulating. It seemed to be a place where women worked to improve social conditions instead of just complaining about them.
So what is the NCWC? Their Vice President Administration explains it this way,
… the National Council of Women of Canada has gained a national reputation for effectively advocating for the myriad of issues facing women, children, and families today. We have successfully placed our perspectives firmly in the forefront of Canadian society and the municipal, provincial, and national governments of our country. This has only been possible because of the dedicated support of the members of our Councils, Federates, Convenors, and the many individual women who have joined together to promote equality in the workplace, protection of our environment, and the safety and security concerns facing all Canadians, especially our vulnerable youth and the elderly.
The Council has been in existence for 124 years. Their mission statement is to empower all women to work towards improving the quality of life for women, families and society, through education and advocacy. The Council is a non-sectarian, non-partisan federation of voluntary organizations and the WMS is a long-standing member of Council.
In the early years of the twentieth century, NCWC resolutions were calling for such public health measures as safe water supply, pasteurized milk, medical inspection in schools and were active in calling for federal voting rights for women, protection for domestic servants, and, as far back as 1907, equal pay for equal work!
In the later part of the century issues addressed include consumer protection, violence against women, pornography prevention, workplace childcare, disarmament, treatment of federally sentenced women, and, more recently, environmental issues and the provision of a universal basic income. The list is long—and issues continue to rise and develop.
I have learnt a lot from my involvement with the National Council of Women and I’ve met up with some extremely motivated women who have had much to teach me about advocacy. In addition, one of the most telling things that I have learned is that, despite the opinion that I may have towards an issue, there may be other side issues that I have not considered. I have learnt to listen to opinions expressed by others, who may have particular experience on the issue under discussion, before deciding where I stand. This can be a humbling, but a learning experience.
There are local and provincial councils across Canada and I suggest that, as Christian women, we can add our voices of advocacy by joining with these women who have debated the issues, and often influenced the policies, which have shaped Canada.
More information about the National Council of Women of Canada can be found on their website, www.ncwcanada.com.