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Encouraging women to run in upcoming election

Lauren MacGill

Morden city councillor Heather Francis will be holding a Women in Politics chat on July 11 to encourage women to get involved in politics.

Morden city councillor Heather Francis will be holding a Women in Politics chat on July 11 to encourage women to get involved in politics.

A local city councillor is trying to encourage more women to run in municipal elections.

Morden city councillor Heather Francis will be holding a Women in Politics night on July 11 at 7:00 p.m. at the Civic Centre.

Francis said she wants the evening to be an informal session where any woman interested in running in a municipal election can get any questions they may have answered. “I’ve done two terms now in Morden  on council, so I’m hoping that I can share a little bit of my experience and what it’s been like so if someone has questions they can have them answered and gain a bit of confidence and encouragement to run,” she said.

The main reason she’s doing this, she said, is that women are very underrepresented in politics. She cited a study called The Status of Women in Manitoba put out by the Manitoba Women’s Advisory Council in March that said that only 18 per cent of those elected to office in municipal elections were women.

“The United Nations puts out statistics on leadership and politics, and their statistics say that 30 per cent is the minimum required to ensure that women’s issues are fairly represented in politics,” she added. “If you do the math, we’re beneath [the 30 per cent] so we have some work to do in terms of encouraging women to run for election.”

Francis said the idea to hold the session came from a conference of the national voice of municipal governments in Halifax. “This is a prototype that’s been put forward by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities,” she said. “That’s really where my idea to do this session came about. They were talking about making sure we have a session specifically to encourage women to come out since there is an underrepresentation that we need to work towards closing.”

Francis originally ran for city council in 2010, and has been sitting as a councillor in Morden since. She said even back then the issue of representation was on her mind. “You look at council and you see that there aren’t women represented, and there weren’t even really any of the younger middle generation represented either,” she said. “I think council is stronger when it’s a good mix of people from ages, sexes, backgrounds. It just makes for stronger decision making and better representation of the community.”

Along with answering questions at the session, Francis wants to share what the job is like for those interested. “It’s varied,” she said. “There’s always new issues, there’s lots of recurring issues. Some weeks we’ll be away at a conference all week, the next week maybe there’s only one or two events to attend. Typically there’s always council meetings, committee meetings and you can expect to be a representative on a couple of different community boards.”

Francis said there are also lots of reports and budgets to be read, but encouraged anyone with a passion for their community to get involved. “It’s new and exciting every day,” she said.

Francis said she won’t be running again for councillor this year, so she wants to try to get more people involved in the process.

Francis’ key takeaway from the evening is encouragement. “I know that when I first ran I had a lot of people encouraging me to run but I also had a lot of naysayers,” she said. “I think women face that more than their male counterparts do. People questioned whether I could handle the multitasking of motherhood and being a wife and having my career and being on council, but men don’t usually get asked those same questions. I want to really encourage women because we can do it, and our whole community is stronger when there are women and men on our council.”

The city will also be holding more sessions in the future for anyone interested in running, men and women included.

“Morden is planning to have general sessions that are open to everybody,” she said. “Men are certainly welcome to attend those ones. But, like I shared, women are very underrepresented, so I want to make sure that I give as much encouragement as I can to women.”

“Men are for sure encouraged to run as well,” she added. “But since women are under the representation mark that we should be at, I wanted to have a special session to encourage them.”

The city will be announcing information sessions in the future. Francis said she would also encourage interested parties to read as much as they can about the workings of city council. Election papers and more information for mayoral candidates are available at municipal offices, and councillor packages should be available soon if not already.