Working towards parity at municipal level: encouraging women to get involved in politics
A recent workshop focused on parity was coordinated by the Groupe Femmes, Politique et Démocratie in partnership with the Assembly of regional women's groups in the Outaouais region (AGIR). The workshop gathered around 20 female citizens, aspiring candidates, elected representatives, and former elected representatives from the Outaouais region. The main aim of the workshop was to explore strategies to attain gender parity in municipal politics and to enhance the recruitment and retention of women on municipal councils. The discussions highlighted the need for concerted efforts to achieve this goal.
During the workshop, the participants analyzed the results of previous municipal elections and engaged in discussions on several relevant topics. These included promoting diversity of representation on municipal councils, increasing the participation of women in municipal politics, envisioning a city or municipality with inclusive rules and practices, and exploring strategies to foster equal representation on municipal councils.
The statistical portrait of the Outaouais region revealed that 27% of mayoral positions are currently held by women (compared to 24% across Quebec), and 39% of councillors are female (compared to 37% across Quebec). Additionally, the voter turnout was just 37% (38.7% across Quebec).
The participants emphasised the need to demystify and promote the role of elected representatives among the public. They called for integrating civic education into the school system to encourage civic involvement from an early age and foster a greater sense of community belonging. Engaging citizens in public consultations was seen as crucial, allowing their experiential knowledge and diverse perspectives to influence decision-making.
One notable solution proposed by the participants was requiring political parties and teams to field equal numbers of male and female candidates. They also stressed the importance of making it compulsory to establish parity municipal councils, where half of the councillor positions would be reserved for women. This approach would send a powerful message about the place of women in municipal governance, considering that women make up just over 50% of the population.
Among the measures studied, making the position of deputy mayor compulsory and ensuring an appointment of a person of the opposite sex garnered significant support. The participants believed that such a measure, decided by the municipal council rather than the mayor, could help to balance representation and create a considerable pool of future female candidates.
Photo caption: Twenty or so women, including current and former elected representatives, aspiring candidates, and other citizens interested in municipal politics and civic involvement in the Outaouais region, gathered together to reflect on various issues concerning gender parity. The participants engaged in discussions aimed at finding ways to achieve greater gender representation in local governance.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Groupe Femmes, Politique et Démocratie