The University of British Columbia (UBC) hosted the North American Women’s Debate Championship (NAWDC), over the March 17 weekend. The tournament only allows the participation of women or non-male identifying individuals. The debaters and judges are also women or non-male identifying individuals.
The University of Waterloo’s debate club was fully funded by HeForShe to send four women to represent Waterloo in the tournament.
Participants described the experience as empowering. Mallory Yung, a fourth-year science student, reflected on her experience. “Being around really intelligent women from across North America, we learned a lot just from watching the debates and I think the inclusive environment that NAWDC had was really great to foster our passion for debate,” Yung said.
“[One of our members] messaged HeForShe to see if there were any funding opportunities available and we messaged a bunch of endowment funds but did not get any favourable responses. We ended up getting in contact with HeForShe and had a meeting with Diana Perry so we could give her the proposal. When I told her about female debaters being underrepresented, she decided to fully fund us which was, like, really nice of her. We’re eternally grateful we got to have this experience because of HeForShe’s support,” said Yung.
Jessica Siew, a first-year AFM student, said, “I felt it was a great experience to represent Waterloo because while [Waterloo] might not be historically known for being the most engaged in debate, I think it’s good to have some representation.”
“Something I wanted to add was that it was really cool to see women finally talking about things that actually impact them,” said Siya Agarwal, a second-year urban planning student. “Often in debate we’re not talking about individuals and how we feel underrepresented. We have [a] forum, it’s called the women’s forum, where everyone kind of voices their issues they have during debate like “mansplaining” or the number of male judges on the panel or how to increase female participation in debate.”
Aditi Iyer, a fourth-year math student, said “it was interesting to see how much funding UBC gave to NAWDC. They had a great speaker for the finals and it was nice to see the tournament was being taken seriously.”
The tournament was a great experience for the four debaters as the Waterloo debate team usually stay within the province.
“Last semester we went to McGill, and this year we go to Colgate in New York state,” said Agarwal.
The club would send more people if they had more funding as most of their costs are transportation costs.
“If we had a way to cover that maybe we could go farther to Mexico for [the] World’s University Debate Championship,” explained Agarwal.
These tournaments are “really important, especially with the women’s forum, that minorities have an opportunity to discuss the challenges they face during tournaments, because it is so heavily male dominated” highlighted Yung.
The team encouraged more women to join the debate club if they’re interested, and not to be intimidated by the male-dominant environment.