With less than a year until municipal elections happen across the province, Equal Voice are launching Getting To The Gate, a series of campaign schools for women.

“The primary focus here is to insure that women get elected at the municipal level, that we get women in political seats, where they can actually change policy and make some action happen,” Explained, Sheilagh O’Leary, City of St. John’s Councillor and Co-Chair of the Provincial Chapter of Equal Voice.

Equal Voice is a national, multi-partisan organization dedicated to getting more women elected at every level of government.

O’Leary says women currently represent only 30% of municipal governments in Newfoundland and Labrador. She hopes this initiative will up the percentage of women campaigning in the September 2017 municipal elections.

There will be Getting To The Gate sessions hosted across the province, kicking off with a session in St. John’s at the Capital Hotel on Sunday, October 30th. Dates are not yet confirmed for the sessions happening in Gander, Corner Brook and Happy Valley Goosebay.

O’Leary says Equal Voice will reach out to women who are currently or have been elected in the communities Getting To The Gate visits. Local mentors will be asked to sit on panels and help lead the sessions.

Organizers encourage women who are already leaders in their community, or have experience working behind the scenes on campaigns and feel they might want to step up and be the face of a campaign to register for Getting To The Gate.

“We already have women leaders in our communities, we need to get them into a position where they can make active policy changes and decisions on a much larger scale,” O’Leary said.

The day-long campaign schools will address how to deal with social media, how to fundraise for your campaign and how to get advice from mentors. They will also provide information about the electoral process.

“This kind of information is power and a lot of women don’t have it at their finger tips when they run…these sessions will be a great opportunity for women to ask all kinds of questions in a safe, supportive environment.” O’Leary said.

She believes that women are often hesitant to run in municipal elections because women politicians face a much higher level of scrutiny than their male counterparts, particularly about their appearance. O’Leary said this scrutiny can become especially nasty on social media where people often take advantage of anonymity to launch aggressive attacks on women politicians.

O’Leary believes that municipal governments in Newfoundland and Labrador need more women’s voices to actively represent the populations they serve.

“We need more representation of women in government because we’re 52% of the population and we have a very different perspective and a very different way of communicating. Having women’s voices changes the kind of policies that are made,” O’Leary said.

Women interested in registering for Getting To The Gate can send inquires to: equalvoicenl@gmail.com