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Guelph student eager to inspire women, girls and Latina interest in politics

Today we launch a new feature called Inspire, about local youth taking action to make a difference

International Women’s Day will take on a special meaning this month for Monica Izaguirre-Canales.

The 20-year-old from Guelph has been chosen as one of 338 young women and gender-diverse youth to participate in the national Daughters of the Vote Summit from March 5 to March 8.

The conference encourages women to be more involved in politics. 

Izaguirre-Canales hopes that through her participation in the summit, she will inspire more women and girls to participate in government.  

“I’m excited to learn more about our democracy but especially, to learn more about the women who take part. This is an opportunity to highlight women in politics and to ensure gender equality. We need diversity to create solutions within the government. The government should be reflected in its people,” Izaguirre-Canales said.

“Highlighting women is important to me and it motivates me to help widen the scope and support more women in politics.”

Daughters of the Vote is an initiative created by Equal Voice, an organization dedicated to electing and supporting women at all levels of political office.

Born in Guelph, Izaguirre-Canales is also proud to represent her culture as a Latina woman.

“I am one of a very few Latinas participating in the summit,” she says. 

“My mother is from El Salvador. She was a single mother. She raised three kids on her own. My grandparents are human rights activists. My grandmother was a High Commissioner of Defense for Human Rights in Central America and my grandfather, a prominent poet and author, has written much about human rights. They all endured so much in Central America.” 

It’s from her family that Izaguirre-Canales found her passion in helping others. 

“Since being in Guelph, my mother has always tried her best to help those in Central America but also here, locally. This is just something I have grown up with, human rights and helping others,” she said. 

Izaguirre-Canales is currently a full-time undergraduate student in Global and International Studies at Carleton University. 

While studying, Izaguirre-Canales has also contributed to the United Nations Association as a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Ambassador and as a teaching development assistant.  She also served as a research intern for Canadian Voice of Women for Peace and as a constituency intern at the House of Commons. 

Izaguirre-Canales says she knew what she wanted to do from an early age. 

“After I graduate from Carleton University, I am going to apply to the Master’s Program at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs to specialize in diplomacy and foreign affairs. My end goal is to work in the United Nations and focus on foreign policy and human rights. And maybe one day, I will represent Canada at the United Nations,” Izaguirre-Canales said.

And participating in the Daughters of the Vote Summit, will create new opportunities for Izaguirre-Canales. 

“I am looking forward to meeting with various party leaders and feeling a sense of inspiration, power and motivation. I hope from this summit, government leaders too, will open their lenses and see the need for women in government,” she said. 

Izaguirre-Canales says women are often underrepresented. 

“Whether there are women of a different culture, colour or women who might have different approaches to politics, I hope programs like this can show that someone like me can achieve so much, even with just a little help,” Izaguirre-Canales says. 

“I hope that I can be that representation for Latino women that I didn’t have growing up.”

The Daughters of the Vote program objective is to encourage participation in Canada’s political institutions so that women are inspired to engage in the formal political sphere and take action in their local communities.

The first summit took place in 2017 marking the 100th anniversary of some women getting the right to vote in Canada.

Representing every federal riding in Canada, delegates are selected through an open call for applications for participation in the Daughters of the Vote Summit in Ottawa. 

However, this year, due to the pandemic, the summit will bring delegates together, virtually. 

“There will be guest speakers and an opportunity to mingle with delegates and party leaders. I’m excited to have an opportunity to take part,” Izaguirre-Canales said.

“I also messaged Guelph city councillor Dan Gibson who represents my ward. I am so thankful to him, my community and my family for their support.”

To empower and inspire. 

This is the message Izaguirre-Canales wants to bring to women and girls interested in a career in politics. 

“Don’t let anything stand in your way. Use your determination as fuel. You belong in positions of power. If you feel different, persevere even when it seems every barrier gets in the way,” Izaguirre-Canales said

“Know your truth. Be proud of your heritage and culture and especially, be proud of being a woman.”