Ms. Armstrong’s Grade 10 Civics students welcomed a very special guest into the classroom this week: The Honourable Maryam Monsef
. Ms. Monsef is the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural and Economic Development and she represents the riding of Peterborough-Kawartha. “She is the first woman to be elected in the federal riding of Peterborough—Kawartha, the first Afghan-Canadian Member of Parliament in Canada’s history, and the first Muslim to serve as a federal Cabinet Minister.”
Ms. Monsef began by sharing her journey to politics and becoming an MP. She discussed her experience coming to Canada from Iran and starting fresh in a new country at a young age. After attending Trent University for Biology and Psychology, Ms. Monsef explained that she (reluctantly) decided to go into politics. “I decided to run because a lot of people asked me to. After becoming dissatisfied with some of the choices made by local politicians, I decided to run for the mayoral position.”
Ms. Monsef spoke with our students about the importance of perseverance and determination as she shared her experiences with critics and doubters. “There will be times in your life – especially if you want to do something to make a difference – that people will tell you you can’t do it, that you’re not the right fit...and if you’re not careful, you might just give up on really exciting opportunities...it’s important that you don’t give up.”
The class also discussed issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion – as the first woman in her position, Ms. Monsef faced many challenges. “Hard days will come no matter what you choose to do with your life but if you have a strong ‘why’...you will keep going.”
When discussing the struggles faced by youth in Canada today, Ms. Monsef said, “It’s a really hard time to be young...these days are really difficult and young people, you've been asked to make a lot of sacrifices so that our elders are okay and I appreciate that...we all do..I want you to know that things will be okay.”
After sharing some of her life story and journey to becoming the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural and Economic Development, the floor opened for questions and our students were eager and ready to learn. Our students asked questions about what it’s like being a Member of Parliament, where Ms. Monsef’s passion for women and gender equality developed, her favourite part of her job, and the challenges she faced coming to Canada.
After answering all of our student’s questions, The Hon. Maryam Monsef left the class with a piece of advice for the future: “If you don’t know what you want to do with your life, the clue is in the hardships that you are facing and what gives you joy.”
The Grade 10 Civics class would like to say thank you to The Honourable Maryam Monsef for joining their class and sharing her time with them. It was a truly enriching experience for our students to speak with such a successful member of the community.