Niamh Gallagher, Women for Election

Why so few women participated in politics until recently, and how to change that: the skills required to run for an election, or to be politically active even when you don't want to run yourself.

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Niamh Gallagher, Women for Election

"Many women who attend our programme say to us "I was really nervous, I felt almost embarrassed admitting that I have a political ambition". "

Niamh GallagherMy guest on this podcast is Niamh Gallagher, co-founder of Women for Election.

On their website, you can find some sobering facts about the participation of women in Irish public life: "Since the foundation of the State in 1918, just 95 women have been elected in the Republic of Ireland; our Dáil has never been less than 84% male."

Niamh and Michelle O'Donnell Keating co-founded Women for Election to change that.

Why is it that so few women participate in political life?

Even though that is changing with the introduction of quotas, until recently it felt like politics was very much a man's world.

And this is what prompted Niamh and Michelle to take action: they were very disappointed with the results of the Lisbon referendum, and especially with the low levels of engagement among women.

So they set out to identify and remedy the "5 C's", the five obstacles that stand in the way of women when it comes to politics.

But I don't want to run in an election!

Niamh gives us fascinating insights into politics at national and local level. While many of us see politics as divisive and confrontational, Niamh lifts the lid on what immense opportunities are available to women - even and especially for those who don't want to see their picture on a poster!

In fact, women have been organising and changing things at a very local level for generations. The skills that are required to be active in a political party or to run in an election are the same skills that are required to organise a playgroup or be at the helm of the Tidy Towns committee.

Finding your footing

Niamh also discusses what happens at Women for Election workshops: attendees practice extremely important skills that will stand them in good stead, but they also find a group of like-minded women.

It's wonderful to discover you're not the only one with ambition, or to realise you can participate in many deep and extremely effective ways without having your name on the ballot paper if that's not your thing.

At the workshops, women are able to network and find allies - suddenly what felt like a strange, somewhat embarrassing ambition becomes a world of possibilities.


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