Project aims to beef up policy chops of underrepresented people

· The Pulse

Two organizations dedicated to increasing the diversity of voices heard in politics are holding a virtual policy competition to help get historically underrepresented women and gender-diverse people involved in the municipal decision-making process.

Parity YEG is collaborating with Women's Advocacy Voice of Edmonton (WAVE) to host the three-day competition, running from Aug. 26 to 28. It invites women and gender-diverse people from anywhere in the Edmonton region to write a one-page policy brief related to public safety, democratic participation, climate resilience, or inclusive communities. Twelve winners will be selected by a panel of judges and matched with city councillors for a paid internship, where they can further develop their policy chops and make valuable political connections.

"All we want is for gender-diverse folks and racialized women to just take a stab at it," said Cindy Caturao, vice-chair of governance for Parity YEG.

Such people often feel they don't have the right credentials to enter politics, said Caturao. Similar doubts have also been expressed by people who are interested in the policy competition but question whether they are "good enough to enter," she said. "That's the point. We want your views, your lens, to navigate you while writing these policy briefs."

Applications are open until Aug. 23 to adult women and gender-diverse people who live in Edmonton or the surrounding municipalities, First Nations reserves, and rural communities.

"It's just being realistic (about) the fact that Edmonton is more of a metropolitan area, and people at the City of Edmonton aren't just from Edmonton," said organizer and Parity board member Dolly Cepeda Montufar. "And also, trying to be allies to people in the rural areas, to be open and to remember that it's not just us."

Members of Edmonton's city council sit in council chambers

Winners of the policy competition run by Parity YEG and WAVE will receive paid internships with city councillors to further develop their policy skills and connections. (Mack Male/Flickr)

Caturao and Montufar both volunteered for Shamair Turner's 2021 city council campaign, and said they saw firsthand how a lack of connections within municipal politics hurts the chances of newcomers trying to get a foothold in council.

"There were a lot of people who said they don't have mentorship, they don't know where to get their signs during the election and stuff," Montufar said. "There's so many things that we hope the winners can take advantage of with these opportunities for mentorship, so that if they ever do decide to run, they have that available to them."

The election of eight women to city council in 2021 has been called a historic moment for gender parity in local politics, "but is that really enough?" Caturao asked.

"We have six white women and two racialized women – Coun. (Jennifer) Rice and Coun. (Keren) Tang – but we don't have a Black woman, we don't have an Indigenous woman in there or two-spirit person asking those questions. So really, in terms of expectations (for the policy competition), if this is the one thing that these folks can just jump into and identify or participate in, just to get their feet wet, I'm very happy."

The policy competition is supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Canadian Women in Local Leadership (CanWILL) program with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE). Questions can be addressed to