Learn about civic engagement & more
New to civic engagement? On this page you can learn about things like municipal government, advocacy, lobbying, gender equality and intersectional feminism. We’ve also recommended ways to deepen your knowledge and get involved.
“Knowledge will bring you the opportunity to make a difference.”
Claire Fagin, a nursing educator and the first woman president of an Ivy League university.
Start your learning journey here
Learning can unlock your potential to create powerful change. We’ve explained some important concepts below. You’ll also find links to publications and workshops that explore the topics in more detail.
Women, non-binary and gender non-conforming people have a unique way of seeing what our city needs. Our diverse views can help City government to provide inclusive, quality services that improve lives. Yet the City often fails to consider us in policy making. This means it’s all the more important for us to speak up and make our views heard.
Not sure where to start? Read Our Views Matter for an introduction to civic engagement. It’s available in English, French, Spanish, Kinya-rwanda, Somali, Arabic and Chinese.
We also offer free voter education training. In these training sessions we explore how to vote, why voting is important, and the election issues that are important to you.
City government (also called municipal government or local government) makes decisions every day that directly impact you and your community. It’s fully or partly responsible for things like:
- Childcare and senior care
- City police and crime prevention
- Community funding
- Cultural services
- Employment and training
- Financial assistance
- Housing and shelter
- Protection of green spaces and the environment
- Public health and paramedics
- Roads and public transit
- Water, sewage, garbage and recycling
We need to influence municipal government to create real, lasting change. Learn more from our short guide Our Views Matter or our big civic engagement toolkit Making Voices Count.
Civic engagement means trying to improve the quality of people’s lives in your community. It can include things like voting, lobbying and advocating. Learning about community issues, local government and policies is also a type of civic engagement.
Civic engagement empowers you to support the change you want to see. It also helps you resist changes you don’t agree with. Civic engagement is particularly important for diverse women because we’re often overlooked by decision makers. We can use civic engagement to ensure that local government considers women in policy making. It can also give us a greater sense of fulfilment, confidence and belonging.
Looking for a place to start? Read our civic engagement toolkit Making Voices Count or register for civic engagement training.
Advocating means publicly supporting something you believe in, such as gender equality or affordable housing. There are lots of ways to advocate. We create campaigns to organize advocacy activities on a specific issue.
Political lobbying means trying to influence politicians and legislators on a specific issue. For example, you may want them to introduce a new policy or change one you don’t agree with. There are lots of ways to lobby. Lobbying examples include writing a letter to a politician or presenting to a committee.
Want to make a big difference? We created a big toolkit to help you do exactly that. Making Voices Count demystifies the civic process so you can start engaging decision makers and advocating for change. Our toolkit is easy to read and available in English and French. It contains lots of practical guidance on:
- The different levels of government
- How city government works
- How city budgets work
- How to influence city decision makers
- Ways to get other people involved
- Ways to spread your message
Gender equity is a way to ensure people of all genders have equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities. Equity doesn’t mean treating everyone the same – it means treating everyone according to their needs so they can thrive. Gender equality can’t exist when city government fails to consider women, girls, non-binary and gender-non-conforming people in policy making.
Intersectional feminism describes how our overlapping identities (such as gender, race, language, class, ability and sexual orientation) affect how we experience oppression, power and discrimination. The term ‘intersectionality’ was coined by Dr Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of critical race theory. Learn how intersectional feminism guides CAWI’s strategic direction, approach and organizational culture.
Browse our publications or register for a workshop to learn more with CAWI.
We’ve also listed some useful resources from other organizations below. Please be aware that the following links will take you away from our website.
Information for voters, City of Ottawa
Practical guidance to help you vote in Ottawa’s municipal elections.
A useful resource for women who’re interested in getting into politics. This organization advocates for equal representation of women at all levels of political office.
Canadian Women in Local Leadership, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
A three-year project (2021–2024) to involve more women in municipal leadership and to support more diverse, inclusive and equitable governance processes.
Tools and Practices to Support all Women, Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Explores ways to support women as leaders and agents of change across the political and professional spheres.
Research, policy analysis and knowledge, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women
A collection of publications on social justice and equality for women, developed by Canada’s only bilingual feminist organization dedicated to research.
The Facts: Gender Equality and Gender Justice, Canadian Women’s Foundation
Facts about the gender pay gap, women in leadership, women living in poverty, gender-based violence and more.
Equity and Inclusion Lens, City of Ottawa
A tool developed in partnership with CAWI to help the City advance equity and inclusion in its services.
Women and Gender Equality Canada
A department of the Government of Canada that works to advance equality and inclusion in Canada’s economic, social and political spheres.
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We have 25+ educational publications including guides, toolkits and reports. Most are free to view and download.
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Train with CAWI
We run free workshops on civic engagement and more. Our training is designed for women with lived experience of marginalization.