With more than 80 per cent of Calgary’s city council being male, many argue women’s issues are not being represented properly in municipal politics. However, Ask Her is fighting to create a gender balanced local government.

Founded in 2016, Ask Her is a non-partisan organization aiming to motivate 20 women to run for Calgary’s city council. With the next election in October, Ask Her is well on its way to completing this goal already in January, more than 10 female candidates have entered the race.

To further this goal, Ask Her hosted its first Equal Voice Campaign School on Jan. 21, where more than 50 women gathered at the Women’s Centre in Calgary for the one-day event.

Current candidates, prospective candidates and volunteers all participated and speakers from across the country attended to give expert advice.The campaign school focused on teaching participants how to fundraise, cold-call and run social media.

Michelle Robinson, a candidate for the upcoming municipal election, attended the campaign school.

“It's exciting to have something like Ask Her behind a group of women, no matter their political affiliation and to know that we have family in political circles,” she says.

“When you have half of the population being incredibly underrepresented, it brings a different perspective to the conversation. We don't talk a lot about the concerns that women might have that are different than men. The makeup of Calgary just needs to be reflected better in our representatives.”      —Lindsay Amantea, president of Ask Her

With only 13 per cent of city council being made up of women, female candidates need all the support they can get. In the previous 2013 electoral race, only nine out of 57 candidates were women.

“When you have half of the population being incredibly underrepresented, it brings a different perspective to the conversation,” says Lindsay Amantea, president of Ask Her.

“We don't talk a lot about the concerns that women might have that are different than men. The makeup of Calgary just needs to be reflected better in our representatives,” said Amantea.“I think it's really hard for people, predominantly men, to realize what it's like to be a woman and all of the underlying social things that go with that.”

Amantea from Ask Her stresses, with this lack of perspective on city council, crucial women’s issues are being overlooked.

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Lindsay Amantea, president of Ask Her, says she is committed to creating an equal female voice with Calgary’s local government. Photo by Sarah Green

“One of the biggest issues we have in this city is safety issues,” says Robinson.“If we always have people who don't understand safety issues from a female point of view, we're never going to solve those issues.”

Amantea highlights the need for diverse perspectives within city council.

“When we talk about transit, we don't talk about putting our bus shelters in well-lit areas. It really does come down to just making sure that everyone's perspective is represented.”

Ask Her sees feminism as a tool that can create an equal female voice within Calgary’s representatives.

“Feminism is about equality and that's what we're looking for. We're looking for equality on council and equality in our representation,” says Amantea.

However, in recent times, feminism has become increasingly controversial both inside and outside of politics. Blair Berdusco, another candidate in the race, acknowledges the stigma associated with feminism.

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Blair Berdusco, a current city council candidate, has participated in various workshops that provided insight on how to run a successful campaign. Photo by Sarah Green

As a city council candidate, Berdusco is optimistic about the future.“Some people may have a negative idea when it comes to [feminism]. They may go back to the ‘60s of burning bras but that's not what it means now. It's just a matter of getting that message out there and educating people.”

“The generations coming up, and even generations that currently are typical voters, they're realizing that times are changing. Women and minorities are becoming more noticeable and more active in the community and they have a voice.”

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