Donegal woman leads campaign for more women in politics

A DONEGAL woman is leading a campaign to get more women involved in politics and assist them in running in the 2024 local elections.
Dr Michelle Maher is Programme Manager with See Her Elected, a campaign set up in response to the low number of women elected in rural Ireland. Speaking to the Donegal News Dr Maher said it “breaks her heart” that only four women out of the 37 councillors on Donegal County Council are female and that only eleven women have ever been elected to the local authority. The first female councillor was elected in 1979.
“It was all men and since 1979 there has only been eleven women councillors. There has bound to have been 200 plus men elected over that same period. It is very stark reading,” she said.
“We want to see more women in Council and to keep women in politics. Part of my job is to look at the reasons why so few women are involved in politics and one of the big ones is confidence. Women are quick to say that they don’t know much about politics.”
Before Covid-19 hit there were plans to run a ‘She School’ for a group of women in Dungloe and  Longford to teach women about local government. They decided instead to move this online during the pandemic and have had a great response. One of the big questions raised during these sessions was if you want to run for election where do you start?
“That’s where the idea came from for a practical, straightforward, guidebook. We launched the guidebook last Friday and we have made it free to download,” said Dr Maher, who is from Donegal Town.
“We want to get it into the hands of as many women as we can.”
Along with the guidebook See Her Elected began a series of workshops this week designed as a “sleeves rolled up approach” to getting women elected.
There will be seven workshops, once a month between November and next May. There are four different times over four different days of the week to try and accommodate everyone. Dr Maher said it is no coincidence that they are starting to plan now for the 2024 local elections as research has shown that women wait to be asked and often they are not asked until the last minute. She said it can be more challenging for women to get involved who do not come from a political family or are new to the country. She said Independent candidate Thoiba Ahmed who ran in the Letterkenny Municipal District in the last local elections did an amazing job in this regard.
It’s not just women whose face will end up on the poster that they want to hear from. They will also be working with election teams and will be looking for campaign managers and strategists to get involved.
“We would welcome as many women from Donegal as possible to join us,” said Dr Maher.
“We have had close to 60 women from Donegal come to one or more of our events.”
The online workshops will cover topics such as being able to articulate your motivation for becoming a councillor or for being part of a campaign, knowing your electoral area, building your profile and getting your name out there. They will also look at the pros and cons of running independent versus being in a political party. Dr Maher said the idea is to provide sustained and consistent support for women along the journey to getting elected.
In August 2022 they will move to the second series of workshops which will look at canvassing, what your campaign will look like and media training.
You can register for the workshops and download a free copy of the See Her Elected guidebook on the website

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