December Grant goes to… Ask Women Anything

December Grant goes to… Ask Women Anything

We are so happy to announce that our 12th grant is going to Ask Women Anything, an intimate and accessible speaker series meant to be a forum for members of the community to get to know the amazing women in our midst.

Ask Women Anything, created and run by the volunteers at Media Action Média, is designed to connect women and men in Ottawa with complex, interesting women in order to spark discussions away from the filters of media and social media. Five AWAs have been held since this February, and have had an impact both on attendees and the speakers themselves. Participants have shared that they have discovered relatable, local role models through the series so far, while some speakers have noted they’ve connected with participants outside the speaker series to keep the conversation going.

Each event focuses on different topics, depending on the speaker’s background and interests. To date, AWA participants have discussed issues ranging from science, religion, journalism, sexism in the workplace, food, music, and happiness. A major goal in selecting speakers and hosting events is to show that our community is full of diverse, inspiring women, and to build pride in that community.

 “We strongly feel that we are doing important work in Ottawa. Receiving this grant is so validating for us; it tells us that other people recognize the value and impact of this work too.” – Amanda Parriag, President, Media Action Média Board of Directors

Media Action Média have a few ideas for how to spend their grant money, including offering honorariums to their speakers in order to recognize the value of their time, providing event volunteers with bus tickets to get home safely, and recording AWAs for their website. One thing they don’t want to do, however, is make their events bigger.

To date, all discussions have been respectful and non-threatening, and Media Action Média’s intention is to keep the intimate format that has fostered these interactions to date. Rather than host larger Ask Women Anything events, the plan is to host them more frequently, in order to reach a wider audience while maintaining the atmosphere that has led to participants staying and talking well after events are scheduled to end.


AWA Image-2Photo: Melanie Coulson, Director of Communications and Content at the United Way and Professor of journalism at Carleton University, talks to the audience at the November Ask Women Anything event

We’ll be celebrating with Media Action Média at our next JustDrinks event Thursday, December 4th. Join us at Johnny Farina’s from 6:00pm to 8:00pm to learn more about Ask Women Anything!

In the meantime, Media Action Média invites you to connect online. Get in touch via their website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Our 12th Grantee, Ottawa123!

Our 12th Grantee, Ottawa123!

We are thrilled to announce our 12th grantee, Ottawa123!

Ottawa123 is the Ranked Choice Voting Initiative of Ottawa, a non-partisan group of residents who believe that Ranked Choice Voting will bring about friendlier elections, better ideas, and increased diversity on Ottawa City Council. The aim of the project is to have Ottawa City Council pass a motion to have RCV for our 2018 municipal election. Voting reform is notoriously complicated and unsexy, but Ottawa123 hopes to change that by making it more accessible.

“While our success as voting reform advocates depends on logic and strong evidence,” says spokesperson, Colum Grover-White, “we’ll win or lose this campaign based on how creative we are in coming up with new and better ways to make voters care about the complicated, abstract and vital issue of electoral reform. That is why we are holding City Idol, a mock election event on Oct. 23, to show Ottawa what our elections can actually be like.”

Want to support the cause? Ottawa123 has launched a petition calling on all of Ottawa’s mayoral and city councillor candidates to support a change to the way the City of Ottawa elects its official. Sign the petition!

About Ranked Choice Voting
Ranked Choice Voting, also known as Alternative Voting, allows voters to choose multiple candidates, ranked in order of preference. A candidate must have 50% of the vote in order to win. If no candidate has 50% of the vote, the candidate with the fewest vote is eliminated. Your vote is automatically transferred to your second choice if your candidate is eliminated. The votes are counted again and again until there is a winner.

Still confused? Check out Ottawa123’s voting simulator.

Benefits of RCV
There are a number of benefits to Ranked Choice Voting:

No More Strategic Voting: You can always vote for the candidate you like trashier than against the one you don’t. If your 1st choice is eliminated from the race, then your vote automatically goes to your 2nd choice.

Discourages negative campaigning: Since candidates need to win at least 50% of the vote, they also need to appeal to their opponents’ supporters in order to be their 2nd and 3rd choices, resulting in friendlier elections.

Greater diversity of Candidates: Less represented candidates will not be discouraged from running for fear of vote splitting, resulting in a greater wealth of ideas being debated during municipal elections.

Our Eighth Grant Winner: GottaGo!

Our Eighth Grant Winner: GottaGo!

When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.

If you’ve ever searched for a public restroom downtown, one thing becomes very apparent, very quickly: there are none. That’s where our eighth grant winner, Gotta Go! comes in. Gotta Go! is a campaign calling for a network of safe, accessible, free and open public toilets.

“Because of the shame factor in indicating your needs,” explains Joan Kuyek, one of the campaign’s organizations, “there isn’t a lot of vocal discussion for the needs of toilets. The social costs are hidden, and those costs are borne by individuals.”

Most toilets available to the public are on private property and require purchases to use. While there are a number of public washrooms in the city, most of these washrooms are either seasonal, or tied to operation hours. This means that many toilets are available only eight weeks of the year, and all of them are closed after 5PM.

GottaGo! plans to work with the City of Ottawa and the NCC to implement a number of measures that would increase the number of toilets, improve the toilets we do have, and improve access to these toilets.

“Everybody needs to be able to relieve themselves. An awful lot of people are held captive in their homes, worried about going in public, taking their children places, because they don’t know if there will be public toilets — people with diseases, people with small kids, the aging population.”

The campaign is currently contacting key decision-makers in the city — the police, City Council, the NCC, committees that work with people with disabilities and the homeless, BIAs and community associations, as well as tapping into Ecology Ottawa’s network.

“The people involved are absolutely ferocious about the issue”

Most importantly, GottaGo! seeks to change the discourse around the issue. There is a lot of social shame and stigma around toilets, and the need to go. The people who need these services are uncomfortable lobbying for it. Once people feel comfortable talking about the issue, they will be able to lobby for improvement.

GottaGo! has five main asks for the City and the NCC:

  • Invest in better signage
  • Appropriate staffing of the facilities (cleaning, a human presence, etc)
    Invest in improvement maintenance for existing public toilets
  • Add at least 1 24/7 unisex wheelchair direct access units to a number of public buildings (fire halls, libraries, etc).
  • Build new toilets where required (near major transit stops — no toilets in the LRT stations)

Join us on April 2 to celebrate GottaGo!

BackDrop Café, 160 Metcalfe

Are you coming? RSVP on Eventbrite