If you have ever considered running for local election in Counties Roscommon or Westmeath or simply want to find out more about how the county council works and the role of a county councillor then a free online course from SHESchool could be just the answer.
This short course runs for free on Zoom over two consecutive weeks on Wednesday, June 16th and June 23rd. The ‘Introduction to Politics’ course from the See Her Elected Project aims to empower women in Counties Westmeath and Roscommon to engage in electoral politics. The free online SHESchool course is for anyone who wants to start to build up a bit of knowledge about what politics is and how politics works. The classes will run twice on each date in a bid to fit into day-to-day life with a morning option from 10-11.30am and an evening option from 7.30-9p.m.
“We want to see more women being elected to councils and to the Dáil. Our free online #SHESchool which is all about explaining local politics, where you fit in, and what you can do to have a say in what goes on. Only 24% of county councillors throughout Ireland are female and we have a much lower percentage of female councillors in rural counties compared to more urban centres such as Dublin. It is important to have a female perspective at decision making level as this will ensure more balanced decisions are made on a range of issues which matter to us as women whether that’s climate change, employment, parenting, care or violence against women for example.
“There are two classes to this introduction to Politics. This is shorter than usual in recognition of the fact that summer is here and Covid restrictions are lifting! The political language class usually included in our Introduction to Politics will run in the autumn,” explained Dr Michelle Maher, Regional Development Officer with the SHE Project.
SHE is a joint initiative between 50:50 Northwest and Longford Women’s Link. The project is funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage which is headed up by Westmeath native Minister of State Peter Burke.
Dr Michelle Maher is also a resident of County Westmeath and was formerly on the Board of Management of Curraghmore National School and is the current Chair of the St Finian’s College Parents Council.
The aim of the introductory course is to demystify local politics as Dr Maher explained: “The overall aim of the SHE Project is to empower women to engage in electoral politics. We want to see more women being elected to councils, especially in our rural constituencies. But this is not what our free online SHESchool is about right now. It is about explaining how politics works in your county, where you fit in, and what you can do to have a say in what goes on.
“We promise there is no homework involved and all you need is an hour and a half once a week, an email address and a device that connects to the internet.
“This short course is primarily aimed at women from the counties of Roscommon and Westmeath. But if you are from further afield – there will be a warm welcome for you too.”
The first session on Wednesday, June 16th will examine the purpose, structure, and function of a county council. The relationship between the elected county councillors and the people who work as executives in the council will be examined. The course will also examine the opportunities for people in the community to become part of the decision-making structures in county councils, and how that can happen to allow better decisions to be made without them necessarily ever running for election.
On Wednesday, June 23rd, the session will focus on the day-to-day job of the county councillor and the remuneration. This module examines the gender breakdown of councillors and looks at the latest research on the barriers that women face in running for council elections.