PTBOCanada Interview: MP Maryam Monsef On The Empowerment Of Women & Girls Locally (& Globally)

Read our interview with MP Maryam Monsef covering a range of issues associated with women and girls not only in her Peterborough-Kawartha riding but across Canada and globally...

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PTBOCanada: On March 2nd, a Rural Women's Summit you created is taking place at Buckhorn Community Centre near Peterborough. Tell our readers about this initiative, and what this means to you...

MP Maryam Monsef: I am proud to represent a mixed urban and rural riding. It means we have unique assets and unique challenges. In this era of social and economic transition, it is more important than ever to protect our rural identity and recognize that these transitions can often harm the most vulnerable.

We also need to ensure equal opportunities for our women and girls who live in rural communities. This has been recognized by the United Nations, which is why this year’s theme for the 62nd gathering of the UNCSW is “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.”

Since I’ll be leading the Canadian delegation to the UN again this year, it is critical that as the head of the delegation, I seek and hear the experiences of my own rural community in order to take those voices with me. That’s really what the Rural Women’s Summit is all about—to hear from women who are leaders and local role models.

MP Monsef at Electric City Hacks at Trent University, which highlighted the role of young women in STEM.

MP Monsef at Electric City Hacks at Trent University, which highlighted the role of young women in STEM.

PTBOCanada: Tell us about the #MeToo movement and how it applies locally—what are you seeing and hearing? Are you hearing from a lot of your female constituents about this movement? Do you view this movement as a game-changer/tipping point for women's rights?

MP Monsef: In October, I hosted a feminist roundtable in Peterborough-Kawartha, and while the focus was on economic security, the reality that kept coming up was that gender-based violence is a persistent and systemic barrier for women. We heard it from the Peterborough YWCA, we heard it from Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, we heard it from our indigenous leaders. All this while online, a firestorm of conversation was taking place under the hashtag #MeToo, and it continues to inspire survivors to come forward today. No one is surprised now to see that there is no industry, profession or community that is untouched by sexual harassment and assault.

#MeToo has forced us, here at home in Peterborough-Kawartha, and around the world, to come face to face with the power imbalance that has, for generations, fed such behaviour, and made us normalize this gender-based violence. But it’s not normal, and it is time for a change.                  

We can only call it a tipping point, though, if we are going to change our behavior—if we are going to do things differently. It’s important to listen, it’s important to talk, but then there must be action. Our Government has already taken concrete steps to achieve a Canada where women and girls can live free from all forms of gender-based violence.

We have invested $100.9M in our Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-based Violence. We launched a newly reformed and easier to access “call for concepts” with funding of $20M to support the organizations across Canada that are already doing the valuable work of providing support to GBV survivors and their families. And we introduced Bill C-65 to address harassment and sexual violence at work to ensure that all federal institutions are workplaces free from sexism and harassment.

Innovation Cluster Peterborough and the Kawarthas "Power Breakfast - Future Innovators!", with the entrepreneurs of Chimp Treats

Innovation Cluster Peterborough and the Kawarthas "Power Breakfast - Future Innovators!", with the entrepreneurs of Chimp Treats

PTBOCanada: We're in this great, defining age of female empowerment/"Girl Power". What does this mean to you, this moment in history?

MP Monsef: We are catching up to what feminist leaders have been shining a light on for decades. We need to express thanks to all those who have shared their stories and wisdom ahead of us. It’s time, we are finally here. There is an understanding that we all share a responsibility—individuals, businesses, institutions, governments—to help create safer spaces for women and girls to thrive.

I heard this in Davos, from economic and world leaders; we’ve heard this from advocates in our own community; we’ve heard it from our Prime Minister. Empowering women and girls isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

PTBOCanada: Who are some of your female role models locally?

MP Monsef: There is no shortage of inspiring women for me in Peterborough-Kawartha.

-> Linda Slavin for her work on sustainability and political activism.

->  Rosemary Ganley for her grassroots and international community development.·     

-> Faith Dickinson, whose work to support veterans and cancer survivors has been celebrated internationally. 

-> Lynn Zimmer for her feminist mentorship and lifelong commitment to providing women with safe shelter.·     

-> Khadija Warsame for her strength and bravery in sharing her own refugee story to support other new Canadians.

-> Carmela Valles for her pioneering efforts in immigration settlement in Peterborough.·     

-> Chief Phyllis Williams, whose fierce and effective advocacy for her community is a great example of what women in politics can do.·  

-> Kyla Gutsche, a Cancer survivor who used her bravery to create a successful business that helps others.·    

-> And, Erica Cherney whose lasting legacy continues to shape our community. I could go on and on.

I should note that at the Rural Summit on March 2nd, we will also be announcing a new initiative that will honour women like these!

"Make a Difference Day" at Lansdowne Place Mall with Faith Dickinson from Cuddles for Cancer.

"Make a Difference Day" at Lansdowne Place Mall with Faith Dickinson from Cuddles for Cancer.

PTBOCanada: International Women's Day is March 8th—what is your plan to celebrate that day locally? 

MP Monsef: I am so excited to be celebrating this important day here in Peterborough-Kawartha this year. There is a lot planned for that day at places like the Women’s Business Network, Trent University, Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, and Kawartha World Issues Centre. I will be participating in as much of what is going on here in Peterborough-Kawartha as I can, and I encourage everyone to get out there and experience IWD with me. I am so looking forward to being out in the community, among the organizations and individuals that inspire me in my work as MP and as Minister for Status of Women.

I will also be using the hashtag #MyFeminism throughout the day to share what the women’s movement, and those who embody it, means to me, and to our communities.

PTBOCanada: You will be attending the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in March. What does it mean to you to be there again this year? What are the key topics you hope to see addressed, and how do they apply locally?

MP Monsef: As Canada is leading the G7 presidency this year, I am excited to connect with my G7 counterparts, in particular to talk about GBV, women in leadership, and economic opportunities for women and girls. I am also looking forward to sharing Canada’s work on reconciliation with our Indigenous peoples, as well as our leadership on gender-based budgeting.

UNCSW is an annual event, held at the United Nations, where thousands of leaders from around the world come together, across their diversity and differences, to unite around a common cause: improving the status of women and girls in our communities. Canada is a founding member of the UN and this year, as ever, the world looks to our leadership.

In 2013, I attended the 57th gathering through a bursary from the Peterborough YWCA. That experience was a politicizing moment in my life, and now, to lead the Canadian delegation again this year, as the Minister for Status of Women is an honour, and to take Peterborough’s perspective to this gathering is a privilege.

PTBOCanada: So you have your passport to get to New York? The necessary updates have taken place?

MP Monsef: Since becoming a Canadian citizen nearly 20 years ago, I have carried a Canadian passport. When I learned, 18 months ago, that my place of birth needed to be updated, I followed established IRCC processes to correct my documentation, just like any other Canadian in a similar situation would do. This process takes time. My application to correct my place of birth on my documents was reviewed and approved by IRCC, and my Canadian passport has been updated.

My story and experiences as a refugee connect me to many other new Canadians who have come to this country to escape war and oppression. In my case, my parents were Afghan refugees when they were within Iran’s borders, and we were Afghan refugees when we arrived in Canada. 

Regardless of birthplace, my status as an Afghan refugee upon arrival in Canada is unchanged. Based on the laws of both Afghanistan and Iran, thousands of Afghan refugees born on Iranian soil, just like me, cannot become Iranian citizens. As a result, I am a Canadian citizen and I also hold citizenship for Afghanistan. I am proud of my Afghan roots, I am proud to be a Canadian, and I am so grateful to call Peterborough-Kawartha my home.

My family and I were welcomed by the people of Peterborough with open arms, and this sense of inclusion and support is something that is at the core of who I am. It is a privilege to be able to dedicate myself to improving my home community of Peterborough-Kawartha, and indeed, my country. 

At the Grand Opening of the Student Centre at Trent University in 2017 with past and present Student Presidents.

At the Grand Opening of the Student Centre at Trent University in 2017 with past and present Student Presidents.

PTBOCanada: Word is the upcoming Federal Budget will be the strongest yet in terms of being allocated strategically to empowering women. How hopeful are you are that this will be huge step in the right direction for women in Canada. How will this impact be felt locally?

MP Monsef: As you know, Budget 2018 will be released on Tuesday, February 27th. I’m very proud that our government understands that advancing women’s equality in Canada will drive economic growth, while boosting the income of Canadian families. More women in leadership positions won’t just grow the economy, create jobs, and strengthen communities, it will also lead to innovation and change in the workplace that benefits everyone.

We are already seeing the impact of this work—from appointing the first gender-balanced Cabinet, to creating and strengthening the Canada Child Benefit, to making major investments in combatting gender-based violence, to ensuring that gender and other intersecting identities are considered in the formation of government policy and the way we spend Canadians’ tax dollars.

These measure are being felt locally, and I know that Budget 2018 will continue to create an economy that works for the middle class, and gives the people of Peterborough-Kawartha—and all Canadians—the opportunity to succeed.

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Maryam Monsef On Her Inspiring Chat With Angelina Jolie At TIFF

Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef and her mother Soriya Basir had an inspiring meet with actor/activist Angelina Jolie on Sunday (September 10th) at the TIFF screening of The Breadwinner, an animated film Jolie executive produced about an 11-year-old girl in Afghanistan living under Taliban rule.

MP Maryam Monsef and Angelina Jolie at TIFF screening of Jolie's  The Breadwinner

MP Maryam Monsef and Angelina Jolie at TIFF screening of Jolie's The Breadwinner

The film, about a headstrong young girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to provide for her family, is based on the bestselling book by Canadian writer Deborah Ellis.

Monsef says the book and movie speaks to her for many reasons: "It's the story of an 11-year-old Parvana's journey of survival in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and her attempt to help her family as the breadwinner. Breadwinner tells the story of Afghanistan through the eyes of a child. For years, Ellis has shined light on the struggles and resiliency of Afghan people and the strength of women and girls of Afghanistan. With the animation of The Breadwinner, we are all reminded once again to never underestimate the power of a girl."

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Monsef tells PTBOCanada that she and her mom had a memorable few minutes with Jolie: "She is proud of Canada's role in the world as we progress gender equality and promote diversity. She also said that of all the places she goes to, she is happiest when she is surrounded by the women of Afghanistan. She doesn't know what it is about them, she just feels connected to them."

Monsef's mother even received this hug from Angelina...

Photo courtesy Maryam Monsef

Photo courtesy Maryam Monsef

Monsef, who says Angelina is beautiful inside and out, adds that she told the actress this at the meeting: "I thanked her for helping to tell the story of Afghan people, and she said she would continue to do so."

Monsef also "fan-girled huge" when she met the Breadwinner author Ellis (pictured 2nd from left below)...

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Monsef came away very moved by her experience at the TIFF screening:

"Teachers in Peterborough often call me and Mom to come in and talk to their students after they read The Breadwinner," Monsef tells PTBOCanada. "The kids always had many questions and such compassion. Seeing all the kids in the audience yesterday and talking to Angelina and others involved made me appreciate the deliberate efforts to focus content like this on children as the audience. They will grow up to fix this broken world and it's never too early to teach compassion."

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Here Is The Full Statement From Maryam Monsef Regarding Globe & Mail Article

On Thursday (September 22nd), the Globe and Mail published this front page story on Maryam Monsef called "Heralded as Canada's first Afghan-born MP, Maryam Monsef shocked to discover truth of roots". Below is her full statement regarding the article...

Photograph of Maryam with her family. The photograph was taken at her swearing-in ceremony as the Member of Parliament for Peterborough-Kawartha, which occurred at the House of Commons on November 24, 2016.  Clockwise starting on the left:  the family are Mehrangiz Monsef, Mina Monsef, Mehdi Taheri (Mina’s husband), Soriya Basir-Monsef, Maryam Monsef, Leila Taheri (Mina & Mehdi’s daughter).   

Photograph of Maryam with her family. The photograph was taken at her swearing-in ceremony as the Member of Parliament for Peterborough-Kawartha, which occurred at the House of Commons on November 24, 2016. Clockwise starting on the left: the family are Mehrangiz Monsef, Mina Monsef, Mehdi Taheri (Mina’s husband), Soriya Basir-Monsef, Maryam Monsef, Leila Taheri (Mina & Mehdi’s daughter).

 

“Today, The Globe and Mail published an article outlining that I was in fact born in Mashhad, Iran and not in Herat, Afghanistan – as I was led to believe for my whole life.
 
Because I know my story has resonated with many Canadians, I wanted to take the time today to clear any misconceptions this may have unintentionally caused.
 
In recent days, my mother told me for the first time that my sisters and I were in fact born in Mashhad, Iran, approximately 200 kilometers from the Afghan border.
 
Following my parents’ wedding in Herat, the local security situation became untenable. The town was severely damaged by war and thousands were killed.  No longer safe in their home town, my parents decided not to take risks and went to Mashhad, Iran, where they could be safe – with the hope of soon returning to the place their families called home for generations. While we were technically safe in Iran, we did not hold any status there and like the thousands of other Afghan refugees, we were not afforded all of the same rights and privileges given to Iranian citizens. After my father’s death, we travelled back and forth between Afghanistan and Iran when the security situation permitted it.
 
My sisters and I asked my mother why she never told us we were born in Iran. She told us she did not think it mattered. We were Afghan citizens, as we were born to Afghan parents, and under Iranian law, we would not be considered Iranian citizens despite being born in that country.
 
Some survivors believe healing comes from telling their story; others cannot fathom revisiting the past. My mother never talked about the unspeakable pain that conflict and terror inflicted on her. This week my sisters and I asked her to re-live that pain.
 
Conflict has robbed me of a father and it has scarred my family and I for life. We thankfully found a welcoming home in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, where we began the challenging and difficult process of resettlement.
 
Coming to Canada as a refugee - twenty years strong - and now a member of Cabinet in the 42nd Parliament – I feel a tremendous deal of responsibility in upholding all that this great country has allowed me to become. This includes accountability to the public and transparency.
 
Canada has played an important role in allowing me to become who I am today. It’s the only place I’ve ever truly felt I belonged, and I couldn’t be more proud to be Canadian.”

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Maryam Monsef Is Doing National Tour On Electoral Reform

This Sunday (August 28th) in Iqaluit, the Minister of Democratic Institutions, the Honourable Maryam Monsef, will kick off a national tour on electoral reform that will take her from coast to coast to coast. During this tour, Monsef will engage Canadians on electoral reform and how we can all work together to make Canadian democracy even stronger.

Monsef will travel to every province and territory across Canada, and is undertaking these gatherings to reach out and hear first-hand from Canadians from across the country about what they expect from the electoral process and the core values it should reflect.

Local Town Hall on Climate Change in June 2015 Minister Monsef hosted

Local Town Hall on Climate Change in June 2015 Minister Monsef hosted

Participants at events across Canada will have the opportunity to openly share the values, needs and aspirations they feel should be reflected in Canada’s electoral system.
 
“I am truly grateful for the tremendous opportunity to go and meet with Canadians from coast-to-coast and, most importantly, listen to their views on democracy," says Monsef. "I am especially looking forward to hearing from Canadians who have not voted in the past, because our electoral system should work for each and every one of us."  

For more info, click here.     

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President Obama Gave Amazing Shout-Out To Maryam Monsef In House Of Commons

Obama shaking hands with MP Monsef

Obama shaking hands with MP Monsef

It was an amazing and unexpected moment in the House of Commons for Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef Wednesday night.

During a powerful and rousing speech to Parliament by U.S. President Barack Obama, he gave a beautiful and touching shout-out to Monsef, telling the story of how she fled Afghanistan with her mother and siblings after her father was killed by the Taliban. Many on social media said it was the highlight of his talk.

 

VICE News Canada Features Editor Justin Ling tweeted this...

Buzzfeed Canada Politics reporter Emma Loop tweeted this...

Speaking of the need to embrace immigrants, Obama said this of Monsef, the Minister of Democratic Institutions, in his speech:

"We see the refugees who feel that they have a special duty to give back, and seize the opportunities of a new life. Like the girl who fled Afghanistan by donkey and camel and jet place and who remembers being greeted in this country by helping hands and the sound of robins singing. And today she serves in this chamber and in the cabinet because Canada is her home."

Monsef was blown away by the remarks, and later tweeted this:

A standing ovation for Monsef was given after Obama's remarks in the House of Commons.

Buzzfeed's Emma Loop tweeted this video of Obama shaking hands with Monsef after his speech...

"It was unexpected," Monsef tells PTBOCanada of Obama's shout-out. "It was humbling and lovely. I immediately thought of my mother, her courage, her pursuit of a better life for her and her kids."

Monsef, who says it was really neat to shake hands with Obama, tells PTBOCanada this of what the moment means to her and her upbringing in Peterborough: "My story is what it is because of Peterborough, which treated my family so well when we came here. It's just another reminder about the people of our community, and their acts of kindness. How these acts of kindness and community are never forgotten."

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Maryam Monsef Encourages Businesses To Apply For Funding Through Canada Summer Jobs Program

The Government of Canada recently announced that it is fulfilling its commitment to double the number of summer jobs to be created for students, helping them build a stronger future and obtain the skills and experience they need to contribute to our collective economic growth.

Funding for the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program is also doubling to $220 million annually for the next three years beginning this year. This new funding will help expand the number of youth who can be hired from just over 34,000 in 2015 to up to 70,000 this summer.

According to a release from MP Maryam Monsef, in Peterborough-Kawartha the priorities focus on skilled trades, tourism, arts and culture, and community celebrations but all eligible applicants are encouraged to apply.

Says Monsef: "I encourage small businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and public sector employers in Peterborough-Kawartha to apply for funding through Canada Summer Jobs program so that we can help our students gain the skills and experience they need to be successful, while supporting employers who need additional staff for the summer.”

The application period opened on January 4th, 2016 and has been extended until March 11th, 2016. Applicants approved for funding will be able to hire students as early as May 2016.

For further information and to apply, visit servicecanada.gc.ca/csj or visit a Service Canada Centre.
 

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Watch Maryam Monsef's Passionate Maiden Speech In The House Of Commons

On Monday (January 25th), MP Maryam Monsef gave her Maiden Speech to the House of Commons as a Member of Parliament for Peterborough-Kawartha.

In her passionate talk, she made commitments to the people of her riding here and to the people of Canada. She also made a plea for civility to her colleagues in the House to work together and make this country all that it can be.

Watch her speech below...

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Maryam Monsef Announces Open House February 8th At Her Constituency Office

Maryam Monsef, Member of Parliament for Peterborough-Kawartha, is hosting an Open House on Monday, February 8th, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at her new constituency office located at Suite 4 (Ground Level), 417 Bethune Street.

Constituents are welcome to stop by the office and meet their MP at the Open House.

The new digs

The new digs

The constituency office in Peterborough is currently open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., for constituents. Constituents of Peterborough-Kawartha can now also contact the office by phone at 705.745.2108; Toll-Free at 1.800.567.8554 or via email here.
 

In order to provide greater access to constituents, MP Monsef will also open a rotating rural constituency office in each township in the County of Peterborough. A staff member will be available at the following locations on the noted days to provide services for constituents:

Douro-Dummer
Township Office, 894 South Street, Warsaw
First Tuesday of each month, starting February 2
9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
 
Selwyn
Lakefield Scout Ship, 13 Water Street North, Lakefield
Second Thursday of each month, starting February 11
9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
 
North Kawartha
Boardroom, North Kawartha Public Library, 175 Burleigh Street, Apsley
Third Thursday of each month, starting February 18
9:30 AM – 4:30 PM

Havelock-Belmont-Methuen
Township Office, 1 Ottawa Street East, Havelock
Fourth Wednesday of each month, starting February 24
9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
 
Trent Lakes
To be confirmed

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Maryam Monsef Appointed To Cabinet As Minister Of Democratic Institutions

Thirty-year-old Liberal MP Maryam Monsef—the first woman Peterborough has ever elected to serve in Ottawa (and the first Afghan-Canadian MP)—now also has another amazing honour after being sworn in for a cabinet position.

From CBC News

From CBC News

Monsef was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as Minister of Democratic Institutions in a swearing-in-ceremony at Rideau Hall Wednesday morning (November 4th).

From CBC News

From CBC News

From CBC News

From CBC News

The PCVS and Trent University grad is the first federal cabinet minister from Peterborough since the late Seventies.

photo via  Twitter

photo via Twitter

Learn more about Monsef's backstory in this feature article—"From Afghanistan To Iran To Peterborough: One Woman's Amazing Story Of How A City (& A School) Saved Her Life"—we posted in 2012.

Read her biography here and this excellent profile the Ottawa Citizen did on her.
 

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Maryam Monsef Becomes First Female MP In History Of Peterborough

For the first time ever, Peterborough has elected a woman to serve in Ottawa, as Liberal Maryam Monsef defeated Conservative candidate Michael Skinner and NDP candidate Dave Nickle.

"Today isn't the end, it's actually the beginning. The beginning of a lot of hard work to meet the commitments I made," she said in her victory speech to constituents at Showplace Peteborough.

Monsef had 29,091 (43.1%) of the vote in the decisive win, on a night when the Liberals formed a majority government under new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The 30-year-old PCVS and Trent University grad is also the youngest person ever elected from this riding.

Monsef tweeted out her thanks shortly after her win....

Learn more about Monsef's backstory in this feature article—"From Afghanistan To Iran To Peterborough: One Woman's Amazing Story Of How A City (& A School) Saved Her Life"—we posted in 2012.

Read her biography here.
 

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