Women throughout the Central Okanagan and beyond met for two days this weekend for campaign training workshops.
Many of the women who attended have announced, or are considering announcing, their will to run for municipal office.
The workshops, which were held at the Central Okanagan Regional District office, covered a wide range of topics, including: Deciding to run, financing the campaign, campaign ethics, canvassing, public speaking and media training.
The event was hosted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). The workshops are part of FCM’s Getting to 30% Project.
Women currently represent 16 per cent of mayors and 25 per cent of councillors in Canada.
The United Nations defines 30 per cent as the minimal percentage of women required for government to reflect women’s concerns.
FCM is attempting to close the gender gap.
Tisha Kalmanovitch is running for a seat on Kelowna city council. She found the workshops to be beneficial.
“I very much believe in gender parity in politics. I think we need a balance, like a good marriage,” said Kalmanovitch.
“Communities are going to benefit from having equal representation from the genders.”
Kalmanovitch ran as a candidate in the last provincial and federal elections for the NDP.
She said the workshops reinforced some of the lessons that she had already learned from her experience in politics.
Mohini Singh, a former journalist locally, also hopes to earn a seat on Kelowna city council. She found the campaign training extremely beneficial.
“It helps you process the system on how to organize your campaign, how to get your message out and it clarifies what the issues are that are important to you that you wish to communicate to the electorate,” said Singh.
Mary-Ann Graham is taking her third shot at landing a spot on Kelowna city council. She took advantage of the workshops to get up-to-date on the newest campaign trends.
“One of the things I’m needing to learn is how to use our new social media. We’re great at getting the older population, but perhaps we have to start targeting our younger people,” said Graham.
Diana VanBeest isn’t a stranger to council chambers: She attended weekly city council meetings, unpaid, from January 2002 to January 2009.
She said that she committed her time to the cause to make sure that the city was going in the right direction.
VanBeest plans to run for Kelowna mayor in this November’s election.
She said that the Saturday morning workshops indicated the financial realities of running for office.
Despite having minimal funds to work with, VanBeest said that she’s not discouraged.
“I have the heart, the energy and the passion. I hope that will carry me through,” said VanBeest.
Although the majority of women in attendance were from Kelowna, women from other communities also got some insight on what obstacles they may face in running for municipal office.
This was something that Gail Given appreciated. Given, currently a school trustee, plans to run for Kelowna city council.
“We have lots of communities represented here. You get the broad perspective of what a very small community election looks like,” said Given “It’s a great way to share ideas.”