Encouraging the public to engage in politics is an ongoing battle and even when engagement is secured there seems to be a divide between the sexes, with men far more likely than women to answer the call to political office.
Scotland’s track record on female political empowerment is fairly decent; research by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has found that Scotland follows Iceland and Nicaragua in terms of female political empowerment.
The country is placed at 27th in the world in terms of the number of women in parliament, with the UK placed at 38th.
However, despite this success, local politics in the Western Isles is devoid of the female voice with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar currently lacking any female councillors.
In a move to help remedy this situation the Parliament Project has been invited to the Islands and will be running seminars in Stornoway and Balivanich, as part of a series of ‘Women in Politics’ workshops being held at various locations across the UK.
The two-hour events are aimed at inspiring more women to become active in politics and showing them how to make a difference in their communities.
The Parliament Project is an impartial scheme devised to inspire, encourage and support women in politics.
The aim of the workshop is to demystify the political process and inspire women to stand for election.
Funded by the Comhairle, the event will welcome women of all ages and from all backgrounds, and intends to break down the process of entering into politics, how to get involved with representing local communities and how to run for office.
It will also facilitate connections with like-minded people in the Western Isles, enabling them to share their ideas and hopes for the community.
Guest speaker and former Western Isles councillor Catriona Stewart will be sharing her own experiences in the political arena at the Stornoway workshop.
Speaking to local news resource ‘Hebrides Writer’ recently, Ms Stewart said she is sad that there aren’t more women in politics and encouraged women, who have the time to stand, to have the confidence to go for it.
She added that it’s important women have more confidence in their abilities, and while the job is not an easy one, it is extremely rewarding.
The workshops will involve attendees exploring what their political ambitions might be and consider how they can use the knowledge, experience and skills they already possess.
It will also look at the unique challenges that face women in the Western Isles, and create an action plan for their political paths.
Lee Chalmers, founder and co-director of the Parliament Project, said: “We are delighted to be coming to the Western Isles.
“There are huge numbers of women out there who could be getting ready to run for office; we meet them every day - yet women make up only 36% of the members of the Scottish Parliament and 24% of councillors.
“The Parliament Project is a confidence builder, a safe space for women of all political colours and none, to explore and develop their political ambitions in a workshop setting which inspires participants to build networks, affirm personal goals and develop the skills required to stand for elected office.
“Scotland has the chance to become one of the nations with the best female representation in the world and the Western Isles has a wealth of female talent that we are sure could fill some councillor seats in the next local election.
“We welcome all women to attend, of all political parties and none, as we explore the unique context of the Western Isles and see what can be done to increase women’s political representation.
Derek Mackay, Democratic Services Manager, said: “I would encourage women interested in politics or representing their communities to go along to one of these workshops.
“We would like to see a more representative local authority across the public sector.”
The Parliament Project workshop on Lewis will be held at the Caladh Inn, Stornoway, on May 30th at 6.30pm and will feature speaker Catriona Stewart.
The Benbecula workshop is at An Caladh, East Camp, Balvanich, Uist on May 31st at 6.30pm with speaker Mairi Bremner.
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