The Femmes Équité Atlantique project was about bringing generations together and achieving socio-economic equity for francophone and Acadian women living in minority communities in Atlantic provinces. The project was titled “La rencontre des générations”. Girls and women of different ages attended meetings as part that project. Those meetings covered four aspects: girls' participation, skills, self-esteem and critical consciousness.
It is sometimes more difficult to get girls to participate. They often think that all the battles have been won, that everything is going well, but that really doesn't reflect the reality. Currently, when we discuss equality, equal wages and benefits girls may know they are lacking, we realize that, at the secondary and post-secondary levels, girls participate in debates in certain areas. However, their participation is low, if not inexistent, once they are out of university or community college.
I am currently the only woman and the only francophone on the Bathurst city council. If you think that the situation is good and that things are going well for women, I would like to welcome you to today's world. Young women must be given the opportunity to express their concerns and their perception of inequalities. However, depending on their family's economic situation—and in certain areas, the main preoccupation is surviving in this world—young women have difficulty deciding to participate more extensively in collective actions.
Some young women become involved in the Regroupement féministe du Nouveau-Brunswick—the province's feminist organization—but I would not say that, overall, they understand the issues and inequalities in society, especially when it comes to young francophone women. I don't know how those young women will be able to rise to the challenges that lie ahead. I often feel that our school system insufficiently prepares our girls for the future, that they are not educated about the inequalities. I am not sure the school system recognizes the importance of providing girls with the skills they need to succeed in this world.
That brings me to my second point—skills and knowledge development. The Fédération des jeunes francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick, the province's francophone youth federation, contributes to building what is referred to as individual empowerment in girls and young women who become involved. Yet only a small minority of our young people get involved. That is perhaps due to the fact that parents fail to encourage girls and young women to become involved in the community or in issues that are of importance to women. It may also be due to anger.
At the secondary level, student councils are often chaired by young women. There are some young women even at the FAECUM, in Moncton. However, research shows that, once women leave the Université de Moncton—regardless of whether they become lawyers or pursue another career—they do not reach their full community potential. How can we help young women develop the inner passion that will drive them to become involved and to want to contribute to their community? That issue is a bit more specific and more difficult because the community does not provide those women with support.
I can share my own story with you. Had I not been a woman of character who was used to being on the city council, I don't know whether I would have decided to run again in the next election, simply because it's a man's world. We, the women, may be present in the media, but when it comes to day-to-day activities, it is very much a male-dominated and anglophone world. I apologize, but I am going through a difficult time, and my vision of the issue may be a bit subjective. If that is the case, I apologize.
Young women need the community and the people they know, especially boys and young men, to encourage them to reach their leadership potential and to show the community that they have something to contribute and the will to do it. However, that interest must be kindled.
That is somewhat similar to the seniors project I managed for a few months, which has two aspects. Women of all ages are encouraged to participate, but also to develop their desire to hold positions of responsibility and decision-making. That's very important. Women account for 50% of the population, but they do not occupy 50% of those positions. We must continue encouraging the work Status of Women Canada does to develop young women's desire to participate, to have enough confidence and self-esteem to tell themselves they can contribute and change things.
To do that, we need people like Aldéa Landry and Brigitte Sivret, who are not only making their voices heard, but are also remaining very visible in their community. That gives young women models to follow. They can say to themselves that, if Anne-Marie Gammon and Aldéa Landry can do it, so can they. That self-esteem must be built up, and we must set up more projects that help young women develop their understanding of the community and their desire to contribute to change. Those young women's internal locus of control must provide them with enough confidence to make changes in their community and their own lives.
In a 2008 article, Mr. Ninacs often mentions young women and—