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SHE Speaks

Women drive local community groups but perceive politics as a job for someone else

By November 24, 2021No Comments

When we talk about women in politics some people might ask why do we need more women to become involved in electoral politics or why does it really matter? At See Her Elected our first answer is always – our council chambers need to be more reflective of the society we live in. For example, 13% of our population is made up of people with a disability yet we don’t see this reflected in the make-up of our county councillors.

Likewise, we need to see more women, more ethnic diversity and more disabled people or women from a Traveller background becoming involved in politics because we need to hear these voices reflected in the decision-making process. The council chamber should look more like a microcosm of the society it represents. This will benefit all of society as it will make for more rounded and balanced decision making. County Councils have a say in the places where we live, work, and relax whether that’s affordable housing, climate and environmental issues, road repairs, provision of playgrounds or leisure facilities or the arts – decisions made at county council level affect our everyday life, so it is crucial that women play an equal part in that decision making process.

Any increase in female participation in politics has largely been enjoyed in the Dublin and greater Dublin area with an almost 50/50 gender breakdown but the story is unfortunately very different in rural Ireland.

The number of women elected to local county councils in rural areas remains stubbornly low.  Only 4 out of 18 councillors in Co Roscommon are women while only 3 out of 18 in Sligo and Leitrim and the situation is much worse in Donegal with only 4 out of 37 councillors being women. So why is the situation so bad in rural Ireland and why is it so important that we encourage more women into politics?

There can be a mixture of cultural and societal reasons why women do not engage more in politics; they may be looking after the lion’s share of caring or childcare responsibilities, or they may very often under-rate  their own abilities or contribution.

Many of them may be involved in the local GAA committee, school board or Tidy Towns committee but they don’t necessarily see this as political, but it is politics with a small ‘p’.  It is important work that oils the wheels of community life but all too often women dismiss their contribution, seeing it as merely part and parcel of living in a small close-knit area.

Or they could be simply overburdened with community work as it is, and the idea of taking on another ‘project’ may seem overwhelming.

It can be extremely  difficult to bridge the gap between the local committee work and putting your name on a ballot paper.  Many women could not begin to imagine themselves making that leap for the simple reason that they have not seen other women run for election.

This is where See Her Elected comes in. We are a grassroots organisation built on the ethos of women learning and supporting each other. We encourage women to engage in the political arena through a series of workshops and practical support.  Their participation may not necessarily mean running for election themselves but could mean getting involved as part of a team for a female candidate. There are a myriad of roles that women can take up to support another woman into politics.

Unfortunately, women very often underestimate their own abilities when it comes to politics and that is why it is important to help  equip them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to become engaged in electoral politics.

To this end, we have recently published the See Her Elected ‘A Guide to Running in the 2024 Local Elections’ and this is a very practical guidebook which can be downloaded free of charge from our website.

The guidebook offers a wealth of information with everything from organising your finances to selecting your kitchen table team and campaign manager, how to deal with the media, raising your profile, canvassing and so much more.

These are the practical skills that may seem overwhelming to a candidate who is starting out, but they are a vital part of running a successful election campaign.

To accompany the new book, we have designed a series of free online interactive one-hour workshops starting on Monday November 22.  All the details, and registration are available at this link:  https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/see-her-elected-in-2024-tickets-203832427277

No political campaign is about one person, it is about a committed team of people working together with a common goal. When that goal is achieved, when more women are around the table making key decisions, society as a whole will reap the rewards.  It is time for women to get out there and be the change they want to see, not just for themselves but for the generations to come.

Thanks to the Irish Examiner for running this opinion piece written by Mairead O’ Shea for See Her Elected- see link to article here:https://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/commentanalysis/arid-40748901.html