See Her Elected (SHE) the feminist, community-led, rural initiative to support women into politics in the Midlands and North West has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious Innovation in Politics Award 2021.
The annual Innovation in Politics Awards recognise creative projects from across Europe which break new ground to find innovative solutions for today’s challenges. The awards are presented to politicians in recognition of their innovative projects based on European values of social balance, democracy, and human rights – regardless of their party affiliation or level of government.
A citizens’ jury comprising over 1,000 Europeans evaluates the projects to determine the finalists and winners in the Awards’ nine categories. See Her Elected beat off stiff competition from over 400 European entries to be selected as one of just ten finalists in the democracy category.
Programme Manager with SHE, Dr Michelle Maher said she was “absolutely delighted” that See Her Elected had been selected as a finalist.
“We are thrilled that the See Her Elected programme has been selected as a finalist in the democracy category in the Innovation in Politics Awards. It is fantastic recognition for the programme and our work in trying to increase the numbers of women in local politics in the rural NorthWest-Midlands Region of Ireland, where anything from 78% to 95% of the county councillors are men. We need our council chambers to be more reflective of society and we need to see more women in politics in order to have more balanced decision making.”
“To be chosen by a citizen’s jury of over 1,000 Europeans and to make it to the top ten finalists in our category is really a significant achievement. In order to strengthen democracy, SHE engages directly with women in their communities through the innovative SHESchool. Free online classes cover politics, public policy, economics, and participation. For example, the SHESchool Introduction to Politics classes demystify the workings of local authorities, promote active citizenship, and explore barriers to local participation for women. In a welcoming and relaxed learning environment, women are instilled with the knowledge, confidence, and skills necessary to consider running for election. They are also empowered to participate in decision-making through Ireland's Public Participation Network,” explained Dr Maher.
See Her Elected is a political programme that directly connects with women in rural Ireland. It is grounded in rural grassroots women’s community organisations which draws women from different socio economic/ethnic backgrounds into the programme. Dr Maher explained that although online, it is not unusual for many women to remain on the call after a class has finished to continue a conversation. “This practice is led by the women participating in SHESchool who find common ground around a shared interest in politics and a desire to see more female representation”.
Dr Maher also explained some of the very practical support that SHE offers women, and is especially proud that See Her Elected have written Ireland's first Guidebook to Running in the Local Elections as part of a toolkit of practical supports for women inspired to run for election. It is planned to launch the new guidebook this November.
“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. See Her Elected will work through this guidebook chapter by chapter with groups of women in each county in our region starting from late 2021 and continuing to the elections in 2024. We have also worked with the political parties and Independents to create a series of videos which will be available on our website www.seeherelected.ie in order to help women decide which political party they should run for in the Local Elections, or whether to be an independent candidate.
“SHE's new, local and targeted approach is building a resilient community of women, empowered to participate in a traditionally male sphere of politics. Already, six women have confirmed their intention to stand for election in the 2024 local elections as a result of SHE,” continued Dr Maher.
The jurors of the Innovation in Politics award noted that See Her Elected is at the forefront of political innovation as a community-led initiative which supports women into politics in rural areas of Ireland, strengthening local and national democracy by increasing the diversity of political participation. The overall winners for each category will be announced at a gala ceremony this December hosted by the Innovation in Politics Institute which is an international, non-governmental organisation that identifies, develops and implements innovation in politics in order to strengthen democracy in Europe and beyond.
See Her Elected is funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage under the stewardship of Minister Peter Burke and is a joint collaboration between Longford Women’s Link and 5050 NorthWest. The programme is specifically aimed at the NorthWest-Midlands covering the counties of Longford, Westmeath, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.
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