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Carleton University Student Blog Series: Intersectional Feminism and Open Government

Nicole Bouvier |

Carleton University undergraduate students in Ottawa, Canada, are studying the link between communication and open government. In the class, the students examine how communication can be used to improve governance and to foster a more collaborative relationship between governments and citizens. This series of blog posts is related to a range of topics concerning the issues that challenge open government in Canada and around the world.

Women are still not equal to men in society today. Some of the issues that women continue to face include gendered violence, the gender wage gap, and the lack of women in leadership positions, particularly in places like the government.

 

Why is Feminist Open Government important?

If the goal of open government is to make sure that governments are “more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens,” then intersectional feminism is key to ensure that open government does not only serve those who have consistently been in positions of power and privilege. Intersectionality is a term that refers to the ways in which various identities intersect but also the ways in which different forms of oppression come together and influence people’s lives. Incorporating intersectional feminism into open government means making sure that gender and other identities, like race or class, are considered when generating and implementing ideas for open government.

Did you know that only 54 of the 3,000 OGP commitments made by national and local governments to date include a gender focus, representing less than 2% of the commitments? To improve gender inclusion in open government we must incorporate intersectional feminism. This is key because gender is not the only identity category to consider when making decisions. Other factors, like race and sexual orientation are also important to ensure inclusivity

 

How can we incorporate intersectional feminism into open government?

  1. Conduct research on open government and feminism to expand knowledge base. ​​As the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) notes, there is a lack of research on the topic of feminism and open government. Therefore, getting more people to research in this area can hopefully lead to more knowledge that can then help effectively incorporate feminism into open government. The Feminist Open Government Initiative, a partnership between OGP, IDRC, Results for Development, and the Government of Canada, is working to deepen the evidence around the impacts of a gender-centric approach to open government through two phases of new research.
  2. Ask those that already know about gender and feminist issues. Get women’s rights groups to help and talk to academics who research feminist issues and gender equality. Gathering existing knowledge is key.
  3. Get women involved in decision making processes at various levels within open government. Involving women from various backgrounds is important to make sure we have a diversity of voices at the table. If women are not included in these processes, then it means that their voices may not be heard, or even if they are, they may not necessarily be taken seriously if we don’t have women who are in leadership positions to talk about these issues.
  4. Ensure gender inclusion in the OGP consultation processes. It’s important for a diversity of voices to be heard within the action plan design process, so commitments can better reflect the needs of the country or locality.

 

If we are going to improve open government, then we need to get all of the members of OGP to start incorporating intersectional feminism into the action plan process and their commitments to ensure that open government is truly beneficial for all citizens.

 

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