Amanda Kingsley Malo is a mom, a wife, an elementary school teacher, a board member, social activist and born-and-bred Northerner. She is also the founder of the non-partisan grassroots organization, PolitcsNOW. It’s mission: to amplify women’s voices and engage in gender-inclusive political discourse, engage more women in politics and work together to support women candidates for municipal councils throughout Northern Ontario. As huge fans of the vision and work of PolicsNOW, we are thrilled to welcome Amanda as a guest-columnist to our Hustle section. Read below to learn about Amanda’s journey, how PoliticsNOW came to fruition and what the future holds for engaging Northern Ontario women in politics.
I Got it from my Mama
The things that help make our community functional and beautiful are often done silently and behind the scenes. They’re also often done by women.
I learned this from watching my mom and the volunteers she collaborated with. Growing up, Mom was the ‘OG Volunteer Extraordinaire™’ (trademark by me) and made sure that I understood how important it is to give back to our community. Mom was always president of the PTA, organizer of the school fun fair, lead volunteer on all hot lunch days and an incredible visible presence in all of our school and extracurricular activities. If something needed to be done, you could be sure that Mom was leading the charge.
Our communities are places worth living because generations of women worked hard behind the scenes to make sure they would be. I learned from a young age just how important community is to daily life — from the ‘big community’ that we live in along with all of its services, to the ‘small community’ that makes up the people that surround us, love us and help take care of us.
But a community can only be as good as we are to it, and it is our duty to contribute to it in every way that we can because all of us coming together to share our gifts with one another is what helps it thrive. When a community thrives, its inhabitants thrive. Mom’s hustle has meant that I grew up knowing that intricately — so much so that it feels ingrained in my DNA. As a result, volunteering has been a huge part of my life and I have proudly volunteered in some capacity every year since I was a child.
My Volunteer Journey
There’s something great about living from the North. My mom calls it the “Big Fish, Small Pond,” effect, but what she means is that great opportunities come when you combine your big dreams and hard work with living in a small town because there’s more opportunity to shine. And that’s what happened here.
After accepting (then completing) a fellowship with a federal party to learn more about how to run a political campaign, I had the opportunity to be amongst the first volunteers to join a local political campaign for the 2015 federal election. That meant that as more people joined us as we approached the election, I became a more senior member of the team — and with that came more responsibility, learning and opportunity.
The candidate I worked with won a seat in the House of Commons and formed a team to begin a new journey. I happily stayed at my teaching job, but missed the role that volunteering played in my life. Thankfully, though, I had acquired the skills I needed for the next step in my journey.
The Inception of PoliticsNOW
Two years after the election, I watched millions of women around the world take to the streets for the first Women’s March and found myself fired up with a deep need to help make the world a more equitable place.
The United Nations says that the minimum threshold for proper governance is 30%. Currently, women only make up 29% of Canada’s federally elected politicians. As I began to dive deeper into the statistics, it seemed every stat was more troubling than the last, until I finally settled on a number that hit much closer to home: only 21.2% of municipally elected politicians in Northern Ontario are women.
Having female politicians at every level of government is incredibly important. Statistics show that women have a more collaborative approach, and that having women in office directly correlates with having more policies that are beneficial for families, seniors, women, Black and Indigenous people and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. I began taking stock of the skills that I had to offer. What could I do? How could I contribute to making a difference?
And that’s when I realized that my community organizing skills, along with the expertise that I’ve acquired in my teaching career and the campaigning experience I had, could help get women elected to municipal councils. I knew the barriers that kept women from becoming politicians — proper access to childcare, fundraising streams and volunteer teams are just a few of them — and I was determined to eliminate as many of them as possible. I wanted to build a community that would give women the tools they needed to run for office, and I wanted it to be accessible to all so I made all of the programming (which includes consulting services, training, seminars, webinars and workshops) free of charge. I turned my passion for volunteering into a full-fledged movement.
And that, friends, is the origin story of PoliticsNOW.
Looking Back and Moving Forward
Since that fateful founding day of International Women’s Day 2017, PoliticsNOW has trained over a hundred female politicians, campaign managers and volunteers; we’ve hosted over a hundred women as we listen and learn from inspiring women across the country with our InspireNOW events; we collaborated with Sudbury-based organization, She&Her, to help train and recruit women in Sudbury to more boards of directors; and in the last municipal election in 2018 we supported 26 female-led campaigns in various capacities and saw 10 of those women get elected.
With each bootcamp and seminar I hosted, more women signed up to run and our network began expanding across the North. With every troubling statistic I uncovered came a new idea to try to change the status quo. Running my own organization has given me tools that make me an ideal candidate to join boards so that I can begin influencing change on more fundamental levels. It’s made me an expert in something I always loved talking about. And most importantly, it’s led me to make some enrichening connections and friendships that I value very dearly.
That’s what it means to use our talents and our skills to make our communities better off than they were when we joined them. When we lead and give with intent and love, our community becomes a place where we can all thrive.
Combining hustle and heart is a beautiful thing.