IMG_0364

Diverse Voices For Change: Encouraging Women Of Colour To Take Part In Municipal Government

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.

IMG_0355

IMG_0354

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 :).

IMG_0419

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 :) .

IMG_0346

IMG_0362

IMG_0356

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.

IMG_0358
Rosa and I

IMG_0359
Councilor Lisa Blackburn and I

‘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.’

Source: Wikipedia

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.

IMG_0411

IMG_0412

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.

IMG_0426
The Mayor and the Deputy Mayor

IMG_0427

IMG_0428

IMG_0364
Some of the participants with the Mayor of Halifax, Mike Savage on Day 2

IMG_0402
Our awesome Mayor and I

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).

IMG_8634

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‘.

IMG_0365

IMG_0431

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.

IMG_0396

IMG_0399

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.

IMG_0383

IMG_0384

IMG_0385

IMG_0386

IMG_0387

IMG_0388

IMG_0389

IMG_0390

IMG_0391

IMG_0392

IMG_0393

IMG_0394

IMG_0395

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.

IMG_0366

IMG_0367

IMG_0368

IMG_0369

IMG_0370

IMG_0371

IMG_0372

IMG_0373

IMG_0374

IMG_0375

Thank you to my darling husband, Abdulganiyu Onabanjo who recommended this event to me, my awesome ever supportive male ally.

IMG_7155

IMG_7205

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.

IMG_0468

IMG_0437

IMG_0436

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:

IMG_0353

IMG_0364

IMG_0378

IMG_0379

IMG_0380

IMG_0400

IMG_0403

IMG_0404

IMG_0405

IMG_0406

IMG_0407

IMG_0344

IMG_0346

IMG_0348

IMG_0413

IMG_0414

IMG_0415

IMG_0416

IMG_0418

IMG_0420

IMG_0421

IMG_0422

IMG_0423

IMG_0424

IMG_0425

IMG_0427

IMG_0428

IMG_0429

IMG_0430

IMG_0432

IMG_0433

IMG_0434

IMG_0435

IMG_0349

IMG_0459

IMG_0460

IMG_0461

IMG_0356

IMG_0526

IMG_0527

IMG_0528

IMG_0529

IMG_0530

IMG_0531

IMG_0532

IMG_0533

IMG_0534

IMG_0535

IMG_0536

IMG_0537

IMG_0538

IMG_0539

IMG_0540

Hits : 1395

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.