In January, 2017, my husband tagged me on the comment section of an Instagram post by the Mayor of Halifax, Mike Savage. The post was about the Diverse Voices for Change event, the event is about welcoming and encouraging African Nova Scotian women, Indigenous women, immigrant and newcomer women to aspire to elected positions at the municipal level of government. My husband also spoke about it to me later in the day and we both agreed it was an opportunity to get to know more about the municipal politics.
I emailed Huwaida Medani (one of the organizers) to indicate my interest in attending the event but she replied saying they already had the number of participants needed. Later on, Huwaida sent me another email saying the event was rescheduled because we had a storm day on the day of the event, she said she would let me know if any of the particpants earlier scheduled to attend could not make it due to the change in date. Lo and behold I received an email from Huwaida saying I got a spot to attend the event and of course I was happy :).
Between January and March, we had 2 focus group meetings discussing women in elected offices in the municipality level of government. The meetings were chaired by Tracey Jones-Grant. The municipal is what we refer to as Local Government in my home country, Nigeria. Attending these events have been an eye opening experience for me. I feel very honoured and privileged to have been able to attend the events. The events had women who have lived in Canada especially in Nova Scotia between 15-42 years. As at January, 2017, when I attended the first focus group meeting I was only 5 months old in Canada, so been in the midst of women who have been in Canada even before I was born was a great deal for me as I had loads of things to learn, I made new friends and got new aunties and mummies .
Fast forward to Thursday April 20th and Friday April 21st, 2017 when we had the Diverse Voices for Change event organized by the office of Diversity and Inclusion at the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) in conjunction with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). The 2-day events were anchored by Rosa of FCM, Councilor Lisa Blackburn and other great women also gave talks and shared experiences.
‘The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is an advocacy group representing over 2000 Canadian municipalities. It is an organization with no formal power but significant ability to influence debate and policy, as it is a main national lobby group of mayors, councillors and other elected municipal officials. It negotiates with the Government of Canada’s departments and agencies on behalf of municipalities, and administers a number of funds.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been the national voice of municipal government since 1901.’
Below were the agenda for both days. It was a power packed event, I learnt a great deal about politics at the municipal level of government and met women who have been active and aspiring to be active in municipal politics.
We met some members of the Halifax municipal government, from the Mayor, to the deputy Mayor and few other councilors as we toured the City Hall and we even had a session inside the council chambers, what I consider a rare privilege. We all acted like councilors for about an hour. We debated on 3 different issues (1. Taxi licensing 2. Subsidy of use of recreation facilities by new comers and refugees 3. Low income transit pass program), motions were moved, I learnt how legislature is done in Halifax Regional Municipality and how generally issues are acted upon, how laws are passed e.t.c. Indeed, it was an awesome experience, a rare opportunity I must add.
I have met Mayor Mike Savage at some events and he is always wonderful, easy to approach and receptive. I have also heard so much about him and the great works him and his team are doing in Halifax Regional Municipal (HRM).
It was a beautiful experience meeting all the awesome participants who came to Canada from different parts of the world. The anchor asked us to write how a woman is called in our various languages, so below are what different dialects refer to as a woman, in my dialect (Yoruba), we call a woman ‘Obinrin‘.
Mrs. Ronke Taiwo and I were the 2 Nigerians at the event. It was good to see Mrs. Ronke again as we firstly met at The Halifax Experience event in December 2016. She is the black student advisor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She has been in Canada for 19 years and she always has this motherly aura each time I see her.
More about her below according to www.dal.com.
“Oluronke Taiwo, originally from Nigeria was a technologist for 17 years during which she attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology (Education) and a Master’s Degree in Medical Microbiology both from University of Lagos, Nigeria. She later became a full time professor and researcher at the College of Medicine in Lagos, Nigeria. Oluronke moved to Canada in 1998 as a research scholar at the Dalhousie University after being sponsored by the United Nations Nigeria. Oluronke Taiwo is currently the Black Student Advisor for both Dalhousie and the University of King’s College, a position she has held since October of 2008.”
We had delicious snacks, food and drinks from Chef Abod. The food was so much in surplus that we were encouraged to take some home for our families.
Below are quotes from some inspirational women, few of whom were in attendance. Some of the participants have also participated in elections, some won, some lost and they are not discouraged even though they enumerated challenges that women in politics face, they are propelled to participate in politics to help reduce or eradicate problems faced by women especially Indigenous women, African Nova Scotian, immigrant women, newcomer women, women of colour.
Below are our respective ‘sparks’, we had this exercise during the Igniting Your Spark session, where each of us were asked to write what propels us, what skills we have and the principles that guide us. It was a great session.
Thank you to my darling husband, Abdulganiyu Onabanjo who recommended this event to me, my awesome ever supportive male ally.
Thank you to the Mayor of Halifax, Mike Savage who publicized it on Instagram, he also had pictures of us on both days of events on his Instagram and Twitter pages.
Thank you to Huwaida Medani who invited me to the event, to Tracey Jones-Grant, to the office of Diversity and Inclusion at the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), Rosa and Katherine of FCM for facilitating the events, councilor Lisa Blackburn for taking time out of her schedule to be with us, to all the other councilors who dropped in to see us, and to all the wonderful women I met at these events, women from around the world, from Nigeria, Canada, Uganda, Bangladesh, Ghana, Argentina, Tanzania, The Caribbean, Sudan, Mexico, Kenya e.t.c. It was a honour to meet you all.
I had a lot of take-homes from the events, which include women supporting one another more. Women facing their fears and taking on challenges. More women should endeavour to go into politics especially at the municipal level. If we need things changed for the better, we also have to get involved, we need more women in politics so as to meet our needs. We face these challenges, hence we better understand how to solve them, they say he who wears the shoes knows where it pinches. We also encourage men to support women more, like the popular saying goes, train a woman, train a nation.
Below are more images from the 2-day events: